A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell onto a crowded street in central London during rush hour Wednesday, sending flames and plumes of black smoke into the air. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed and 13 others injured, officials said.
The helicopter crashed in misty weather just south of the River Thames.
Police said one person had critical injuries. Six were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries and seven were treated at the scene, ambulance officials said.
“It was something of a miracle that this was not many, many times worse,” police Cmdr. Neil Basu said.
The pilot, who was killed, had requested to divert and land at the nearby London Heliport because of bad weather, the heliport said in a statement.
“The London Heliport never gained contact with the helicopter,” the statement said.
The aircraft, an AgustaWestland 109, was on a commercial flight, said Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, an executive helicopter charter business.
Video from the scene showed wreckage burning in a street, and black smoke in the area, with a line of flaming fuel and debris marking the area where the helicopter crashed down. Witnesses said the disaster unfolded when the helicopter hit a crane atop a 50-story residential building, the St. George Wharf Tower.
“I was 100 percent sure it was a terrorist attack,” said Allen Crosbie, site manager for the landscape firm Maylim Ltd., who was working at the scene.
“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.”
Mayor Boris Johnson said the crane had been secured and was not in danger of collapsing.
British aviation authorities had issued a “notice to airmen” warning pilots about the crane, which extended to 770 feet (235 meters) aboveground. The crane is lit at night. Police said investigators would look at whether the light was faulty.