London

Vauxhall helicopter crash deaths 'accidental' jury finds

Fog surrounds a damaged crane attached to St Georges Wharf Tower after a helicopter reportedly collided with it Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Pilot Peter Barnes made an unsafe decision to fly in freezing fog because of pressures to satisfy a commercial client, the inquest heard

An inquest into the deaths of two men killed in a helicopter crash in central London has found the pilot's decision to fly in the conditions was unsafe.

Peter Barnes, 50, died when the helicopter he was flying clipped a crane at St George Wharf in Vauxhall, during freezing fog in January 2013.

Pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, was hit and killed by the falling helicopter.

The jury found poor visibility confused the pilot and resulted in the accidental deaths of the two men.

Image caption The helicopter collided with the jib of a crane attached to St George Wharf Tower in Vauxhall

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Twelve other people on the ground were also injured in the crash.

Mr Barnes, a pilot of 24 years, was under great commercial pressure to satisfy an important client that morning when he made the flawed decision to fly, which was "neither safe nor appropriate", the inquest heard.

He had been flying from Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey to Elstree in Hertfordshire but was diverted to Battersea heliport.

The jury accepted the Air Accident Investigation Branch's evidence that Mr Barnes experienced a "loss of situational awareness" because of poor visibility, causing the accident.

RotorMotion, the firm he was flying for, is no longer trading.

Coroner Andrew Harris addressed the relatives of Mr Barnes and Mr Wood at the inquest.

He said nothing would reverse the "tragic, sudden and completely unexpected" loss of their loved ones, but added he hoped possible prevention of deaths in future would mean some good could come of the accident.

Evidence from pilots, air traffic controllers and air crash investigators was included in the three-week inquest.

According to witnesses, pilots had to deal with conflicting rules around flying in the fog.

They were told to maintain a 500ft buffer zone from any structure, but flight paths, tall buildings and altitude restrictions often interfered, witnesses told the jury.

Low cloud cover and freezing fog, the conditions at the time of the crash, further complicated matters for pilots who were forced to descend for better visibility, the court heard.

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