A helicopter crashed in central London this morning after hitting the top of a crane at a building site before spinning out of control and bursting into flames as it plunged to the ground during the city’s rush-hour.
Police say commercial helicopter crashed into a crane on top of a building — St George’s Wharf Tower — on Nine Elms Road in Vauxhall, South London at around 8:00 am GMT.
The helicopter — an Augusta 109, a lightweight twin-engine aircraft — also hit two cars on its descent to the ground.
As a result, debris from the crane fell into the street below as well the helicopter and fuel spillage.
Police were alerted to the incident by a call from a member of the public.
Police have confirmed two people are dead, and so far 11 people have been injured with four taken to nearby hospitals. One is reportedly critical. More casualties may emerge as rescue workers and police work at the scene.
One man was rescued from a burning car.
Sky News is reporting that as a result of the crash, the crane is in a “precarious position” as it situated next to a tower block and is hanging off the side of the building.
A full evacuation of hundreds of residents, commuters, and construction workers in the built up area is now underway.
BBC News reports that more than 60 firefighters from the London Fire Brigade are at the crash site along with workers from the London Ambulance Service and police officers.
Wreckage is currently still lying in the road around the Vauxhall site and approach roads are being closed. Traffic is being diverted, causing massive congestion in the area, although Vauxhall subway is still operating.
According to The Telegraph, within seconds of the crash and during the rescue operation, a plume of black smoke was seen billowing into the sky above the River Thames.
Ex-BBC producer Paul Ferguson told BBC News that the helicopter “plummeted straight into the ground,” adding,”The building the helicopter hit is shrouded in mist.”
Nicky Morgan, a conservative politician, who witnessed the scene as she was making her way into work, said:
“I was walking towards Vauxhall tube station from Lambeth Palace area where I have a flat. There was suddenly an enormous bang – I thought something exploded. It was coming from beyond Vauxhall tube station. Then clouds and clouds of black smoke.”
“I presumed what it was I heard was the crane collapsing or the helicopter crashing into it. I heard the bang then saw the clouds of smoke but there was too much in the way to see much at that point.”
Police have said there is no suggestion that the incident is terrorism, although the crash site is close to the government intelligence MI6 building.
A huge response from the emergency services is continuing, and an investigation into why a helicopter was flying so low in a built up area in misty conditions has begun.
The crane, which remains in a precarious position, is reportedly loaded with concrete counter-weights. The situation is being described by media outlets at the scene as “destabilized.”
London’s Air Traffic Control Service say they were not in communication with the helicopter at the time of the crash.
This story is developing and updates will be added throughout the day. A press conference will be shortly be held in London attended by spokespersons from the emergency services.