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Crash pilot diverted due to weather

Scene after a helicopter crashed into a construction crane on top of St George's Wharf tower building, in Vauxhall south London. Credit: PA

The pilot who died in a helicopter crash in central London had been diverted because of bad weather before his aircraft clipped a crane and then plunged to the ground, an inquest was told today.

Pete Barnes, 50, from Reading, died from multiple injuries after the helicopter he was flying hit a high-rise crane on The Tower at St George Wharf, Vauxhall, and crashed into Wandsworth Road.

Mr Barnes, a father of two, had been flying from Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey to Elstree in Hertfordshire but was diverted to Battersea heliport due to the bad weather, Southwark Coroner's Court heard.

He was flying a twin-engine AgustaWestland 109 helicopter.

Police, the fire brigade and the HEMS air ambulance all attended the scene and Mr Barnes was pronounced dead by the HEMS doctor, London Inner South Coroner Andrew Harris heard.

Dr Harris said he would review the case in three months and did not set a date for a future hearing.

Helicopter pilot inquest opens

Peter Barnes Credit: ITV Meridian

The inquest into the death of a pilot killed in a helicopter crash in central London is due to open and adjourn today.

Pete Barnes, 50, from Reading, died from multiple injuries when the aircraft he was flying clipped a high-rise crane on The Tower at St George Wharf, Vauxhall, last week.

Witnesses described the twin-engine Agusta Westland 109 plunging to the ground in Wandsworth Road, leaving burning wreckage and vehicles charred by flames.

The inquest into his death is due to open and adjourn at Southwark Coroner's Court. A full inquest hearing will take place at a later date.

Mr Barnes had been flying from Redhill in Surrey to Elstree, Hertfordshire, but he asked to be diverted to Battersea heliport because of bad weather.

There has been speculation that he could have been distracted as he tried to operate his radio.

Aviation lawyer and qualified pilot James Healy-Pratt told the Daily Telegraph: "It could have taken 10 to 15 seconds to make the change of radio frequency, in which time the helicopter could have flown up to half a mile."

The veteran pilot, who had 25 years' experience, had flown as an air ambulance pilot and in several films during his career including Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan.

Mr Barnes, a father of two from Berkshire, was described as "a good guy" who was "full of life and great fun".

Pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton, was also killed in the tragedy as he walked to work. He died from severe burns and a leg injury, a post-mortem examination revealed last week.

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Crash pilot worked on major films

In a wide-ranging UK career spanning 18 years, Pete Barnes had done everything from fly air ambulances to working as a pilot on adverts.

The Berkshire pilot of the helicopter which crashed in central London had thousands of hours of flying experience including work for films such as Die Another Day and Saving Private Ryan.

Captain Pete Barnes, from Mortimer near Reading, who died when the helicopter he was flying hit a crane on a high building and crashed onto a street in Vauxhall, had amassed around 9,000 hours of flying time - including 3,500 hours on the type of craft he was piloting today.

In a wide-ranging UK career spanning 18 years, he had done everything from flying air ambulances to working as a pilot on adverts, TV programmes and films including the James Bond film Die Another Day, Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II.

In 2004 he helped to rescue a motorist from a flooded ford in County Durham, while working for the Great North Air Ambulance. He also flew the Newcastle Traffic & Travel helicopter as the Voice of Metro FM and worked as a helicopter instructor.

Mr Barnes originally worked as a ski instructor and guide in Europe after completing his business studies degree, before going into advertising. But he later moved to the US to train as a helicopter pilot, earning a US Commercial and Instructor's Licence flying helicopters.

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PM to look at regulations for helicopters

crash
The scene at Vauxhall. The helicopter pilot came from Berkshire Credit: ITV News

Prime Minister David Cameron said the rules for helicopter flights over central London would need to be carefully looked at following this morning's fatal crash.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, he also paid tribute to the "brave and professional" response of the emergency services to the crash in Vauxhall, central London, after a commercial helicopter hit a crane on a high-rise building.

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