LONDON—A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell on a crowded street in central London during rush hour Wednesday, sending black plumes of smoke into the air as it smashed to the ground. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed and 13 others injured, officials said.
The pilot, who was killed, had requested to divert and land at the nearby London Heliport.
The Ministry of Defence said it was not a military helicopter, and a British security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press said the incident was not terror-related.
Video on Sky News showed wreckage burning in a street, and black smoke in the area. The video from the crash scene showed a line of flaming fuel and debris. Witnesses said the helicopter hit a crane atop a 50-storey residential building, the St. George Wharf Tower.
“There was debris everywhere, a ton of black smoke. Parts of the crane, parts of the helicopter. I heard bang, bang — I presume it was the helicopter hitting the crane and then the ground. People were just panicking.”
Police Commander Neil Basu said one of the dead was the pilot of the commercial helicopter, which had been flying from Redhill, south of London. No one else was thought to be aboard, Basu said; the other fatality was a person on the ground.
British aviation authorities had issued a “notice to airmen” warning pilots about the crane, which extended to 235 metres above ground. The crane is lit at night, and police said investigators would look at whether the light was faulty.
“The top of the crane was actually obscured by fog so I didn’t see the impact,” Michael Gavin told the BBC. “But I heard a bang and saw the body of the helicopter falling to the ground along with pieces of the crane and then a large plume of smoke afterwards.”
The area, roughly 10 blocks from the major Waterloo train and Underground station, is extremely congested during the morning rush hour. Many commuters arrive at the main line stations from London’s southern suburbs and transfer to buses or trains there.
Aviation expert Chris Yates said that weather may have played a role. Investigators also would look at whether the crane had navigation lights.
“The question then becomes whether the pilot was fit,” Yates said.