Tragic last flight of pilot Pete Barnes who helped to save so many lives
The pilot who died after his helicopter crashed in central London yesterday used to help save lives by flying for the air ambulance in Leicestershire and Rutland.
Former colleagues at the Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland Air Ambulance (DLRAA) paid tribute to Captain Pete Barnes who, along with a passer-by, was killed in the 8am tragedy in Vauxhall, London.
The 50-year-old's helicopter crashed on to the street, injuring 12 people, after it clipped a crane on top of The Tower, in the St George development – one of Europe's tallest residential buildings.
Captain Barnes, a former pupil at Oakham School, was believed to be on a solo scheduled flight from Surrey to Hertfordshire when he diverted due to bad weather.
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Andy Williamson, chief executive of DLRAA, said: "We are deeply saddened to hear the news that Pete was killed in the helicopter accident in London.
"Pete had worked with us for many years and will be greatly missed.
"Our thoughts are with his family, and with all the families affected by this tragedy."
Dr Sanjiv Nichani, consultant paediatrician and children's intensive care consultant at Leicester's hospitals and the Ecmo unit at Glenfield Hospital, said Mr Barnes would be greatly missed.
"It is an immense and tragic loss of such a valued member of the paramedical team helping to transport extremely vulnerable and critically ill patients to allow them to get treatment right away," he said.
"He will be sorely missed and he will be hard to replace. Our prayers are with his family."
As well as flying the air ambulance, freelance pilot Captain Barnes also rubbed shoulders with celebrities as a commercial pilot who ferried stars around.
He also flew on TV and on film. His flying credits include James Bond movies, Saving Private Ryan and the popular BBC TV show Coast.
In an interview with the Derby Telegraph, Captain Barnes said he enjoyed the showbiz element of his career but that the air ambulance work was more satisfying.
He said: "I've flown celebrities, such as Lewis Hamilton, and been in films such as Tomb Raider 2 and the James Bond films Casino Royale, and Die Another Day, but flying the air ambulance means I can put my skills to use saving lives."
When yesterday's morning rush hour crash happened, Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan, who has a south London flat, was making her way to Vauxhall Underground station. She said: "I'm not very good at judging distances but I was a couple of streets away, heading to the Tube.
"I didn't see the helicopter crash, but I heard an almighty bang.
"My first thought was, 'Did I just hear that?' Then there was so much black smoke, so I knew something bad had happened.
"It was very alarming. I wondered whether it was a bomb.
"It is an awful tragedy that there has been a loss of life."
Fire crews rescued a man from a burning car, and London Ambulance Service took six people to hospital and treated seven people at the scene.
Prime Minister David Cameron was "very saddened to learn of the fatalities and injuries" in the tragedy, his spokesman said.
The crash caused chaos in the capital.
Vauxhall Tube station was closed, several roads were blocked off and buses were forced to make diversions.
The driver of the crane avoided injury because he was late for work and was not in the cabin when the helicopter collided with it.