By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Early reports say the pilot and one person on the ground were killed when a helicopter hit a construction crane on top of a 50-story building during rush hour in central London Wednesday morning. The AgustaWestland 109 helicopter fell straight to the ground and exploded, and the fire spread to nearby cars in the busy traffic. Thirteen people were hurt. Witnesses said they thought it was a bomb going off, especially since it was so close to the Parliament building. Reportedly there was fog in the area. Pilots had been warned about the crane, but a witness told The Associated Press that fog and mist were covering the building, and he didn't see any lights on the crane.
The pilot, Peter Barnes, 50, was an experienced pilot whose career included flying in Hollywood films, including "Saving Private Ryan" and the James Bond movie "Die Another Day," according to the AP. Barnes had requested to divert and land at the London Heliport, close to the crash scene, because of the weather. "He was a very highly skilled pilot, one of the most experienced in the U.K., with over 12,000 flying hours," said Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, the executive helicopter charter business that operated the flight. "We are devastated by the loss of a highly valued colleague and very dear friend."