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Commuters see helicopter crashing

The helicopter crash was witnessed by many commuters who were on their way to work in the rush hour.

Mark Louis Sidney, who was heading for Vauxhall station, told Sky News: "I heard a loud bang, I looked up and saw bits of propeller and parts of the aircraft falling off it and then plummeting down. Then a plume of smoke went up.

"I called the emergency services. It happened in a matter of a seconds before it was on the ground. I thought 'Wait a minute, has this thing been shot out of the sky or what?'.

"I could see the top of the crane was shaking on the top of the building. It was very foggy so the helicopter probably couldn't see it."

Mr Sidney said the emergency response was "very professional" and there was "no delay".

Conservative MP Nicky Morgan was walking towards Vauxhall when the accident happened and said she thought it was a bomb explosion.

She told BBC News she realised something "dramatic" had happened because of the thick black smoke.

"Within a minute there were sirens, so you felt that the emergency services were immediately reacting, which was comforting. It is a terrible, unexpected tragedy.

"I wondered if it was a bomb explosion."

Eyewitness Steve Carslake told BBC Radio 5 Live that he saw a car explode with someone apparently trapped inside.

Mr Carslake said he had got out of a van in Mill Street and saw the aircraft hit the crane.

He said: "We heard a mighty bang, looked up and saw the helicopter just catch the edge of the crane.

"It didn't hit the tower block itself, it hit the crane and then just came down in a fireball.

"We ran round the corner.

"There was a great big lot of black smoke everywhere and there was a couple of cars.

"We heard someone was actually trapped in the car. We went to run towards the car and there was just a large explosion again.

"It was quite devastating to watch, I'm afraid.

"It was very, very sad to watch."

One witness told the BBC he heard the helicopter crash and thought it was a bomb.

He said: "I thought it was a bomb, I literally thought it was a bomb.

"It wasn't too foggy this morning about 7.30am, but then, in half an hour or an hour it was really foggy.

"It was crazy really."

One of the first firefighters on the scene said it was "absolute chaos", but revealed that the helicopter blaze was extinguished within 20 minutes.

Station Officer Bruce Grain said the helicopter had clipped the crane, spun out of control and crash-landed, hitting several vehicles.

"It burst into flames, which spread to adjacent buildings," he told the Press Association.

"I could see smoke from a mile away. There was absolute chaos. The helicopter was still alight, part of the rotor blade was on the roof of nearby buildings.

"The fire was brought under control within 20 minutes. We were aware that the helicopter could have had a full tank of fuel, but we just used water."

Mr Grain said there were two incidents, with firefighters checking the crane for damage.

Eyewitness and mother-of-five Sharon Moore, who lives on the Wyvil Estate, said she saw the aircraft slice through the crane "as if it was a piece of paper".

Ms Moore, 36, who was with her nine-year-old daughter Tiah, described hearing four bangs and watching two cars explode.

She said: "My daughter was so traumatised, it was so shocking. It sounded like a massive explosion, like something whining in the sky and then it just went bang

"You couldn't see a lot at first because of the fog. The helicopter did not seem to know which way to turn and then it just dropped, it sliced, screeching into the metal.

"It sliced it as if it was a piece of paper. It just ripped apart."

She went on: "I called the police and they got there in seconds. We could then see them trying to pull people out of the cars."

She described seeing what appeared to be body bags.

"We saw someone pulled out and they were covered."

She said the incident "like something out of an action movie".

"We saw the helicopter falling out of the sky, loads of smoke as it landed.

"It went bang. Another car went bang. There was lots of smoke and debris."

She later dropped her daughter at school where she was being comforted by staff.

Nic Walker said the helicopter crashed on to the street outside his house, setting a car on fire.

He said: "I was awake in bed and heard a helicopter. I was aware of some funny sounds and then a loud engine noise, then a huge bang.

"I flung open my window and looked out to see fire across the street.

"I pulled on some clothes and ran out to help.

"There were two people injured on my side of the fire. I think one was a motorcyclist. One seemed to have an eye or brow injury."

"I ran down with a guy to check the car. No driver but we couldn't get close enough to see the back.

"I took a guy down to check the car was empty but had to pull back from fire and explosions.

"That car was later gutted by the fire. There were secondary explosions going on so we had to get back. It was smokey as hell too."

He added: "The crane operator was about to go up. The scaffolders evacuated to here told me there isn't a crane big enough in the UK to get the wreckage down."

Ms Moore said she was unable to see any lights on top of the crane this morning.

The voluntary worker said: "Usually I can see a red light on top of the cabin but today you couldn't see anything.

"I think it was because the building was covered by fog.

"Sometimes that happens all day and you wonder how they (aircraft) are meant to see."

Moments before the helicopter came down, it appeared to attempt to avoid the structure, she added.

"I honestly think it was like the pilot was blinded," she said.

"I think the helicopter tried to swerve but didn't know which way to turn."

She said it then struck the metal and came "spinning down".

Stephen Swan, who is living with a friend in St George's Wharf, said when he heard the collision he thought the nearby MI6 building had been attacked.

We heard a big crash, the bang and then we got up and went out on the balcony. We thought something terrible had happened at MI6, it was scary," he said.

"I'd just watched the film Skyfall not so long ago, and seeing that place (MI6) pretend blown up I thought 'Oh my God, what's going on?'"

He said the lights on the crane were always on.

"They're always on, for sure. They're never not on."

IT student Mr Swan, 43, was evacuated from the building by police.

He was told "an incident has happened and you must leave the building immediately".

Mr Swan, who is originally from Edinburgh, said: "As Londoners, we just get on with it. These things happen, you're always aware that things are going on."

Two drivers who work delivering and picking up building materials at the St George Tower site described how debris and then the crane's boom came raining down on their trucks.

Ray Watts, 45, and Paul Robinson, 42, were with a group of about 20 workers waiting outside the building to start work when the incident happened.

Mr Watts said the only reason he was not in his truck at the time was because he had stopped to chat with a security guard.

Describing the chaotic moments after the crash, he said: "As we looked up with the bang, we saw the crane coming down and we ran.

"It was only when we got to the corner out of the way that we looked back and saw the boom had hit the back of the truck, hit his (Mr Robinson's) truck as well.

"Then, as we were at the corner, we saw the flames from the helicopter.

"It was scary - you don't know which way to run because it was coming down all over the place.

"Everyone was running all over the place.

"We ran across the road but because it hadn't been shut - all the cars were still coming down.

"No-one got run over but it was close at times."

Mr Robinson said he was waiting in his lorry when he felt a bang.

At first he thought he had been hit from behind by Mr Watts' truck.

Mr Robinson said that when he realised what was happening he had "run like hell", adding: "Then someone said 'It's a helicopter that's hit it' and I thought 'How can a helicopter hit the crane when it's flashing?'"

"The crane driver was late - apparently he was halfway up. If he was on time he would have been gone," he added.

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