THE pilot killed in a horrific helicopter crash in central London was a former Yorkshire Air Ambulance captain whose flying skills had featured in a Bond film.
Captain Peter Barnes, 50, one of the most experienced aviators in the UK, died when his craft spun out of control and crashed to the ground after clipping a crane on top of one of Europe’s tallest residential tower developments.
The helicopter fell from the sky before exploding into flames and plunging on to Wandsworth Road near Vauxhall station, killing one person on the ground. The victim is believed to be Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton, south London.
Six others were taken to hospital – one in a critical condition – and paramedics treated four more casualties at the scene.
Former colleagues of Captain Barnes, who is understood to be a father-of-two, have paid tribute to the skilled pilot, whose lifesaving work spanned the entire region.
A spokeswoman for Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) said: “We are saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Captain Peter Barnes.
“Captain Barnes had previously flown with YAA as one of our pilots a few years ago and was very well respected among our staff.Out thoughts and sincere sympathy are with his family and the families of those involved in the tragedy.”
Captain Barnes was also a pilot with the Great North Air Ambulance Service, covering North Yorkshire, Cumbria and the North-East, until about four years ago.
Operations director Kevin Hodgson, who worked alongside him for a number of years, said: “Pete was as good a guy as you can imagine and one of the best pilots I’ve ever had the pleasure of flying with. Over the years he will have flown on dozens of missions, no doubt saving lives along the way.
“Everyone at the charity is deeply saddened at this news. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the tragedy.”
Captain Barnes, who was born in Nottingham and lived in Berkshire, worked for the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance up until his death.
UK HEMS, the charity that supports helicopter air ambulance services, said he was a “hugely skilled and experienced” pilot – he had 3,500 hours on the type of craft he was piloting yesterday.
Captain Barnes was flying an Agusta 109 eight-seater aircraft leased to charter flight firm Rotormotion, based in Redhill, Surrey, which advertises a “boutique” service for VIPs, when tragedy struck at around 8am yesterday.
He had been making a scheduled commercial flight to Elstree in Hertfordshire when he attempted to divert to London Heliport at Battersea due to bad weather.
Rotormotion managing director Captain Philip Amadeus said: “Our main priority now is for the family of the pilot and we extend our greatest sympathy to the friends and relatives of those who have died and been injured.”
Captain Barnes logged more than 10,500 flying hours over the course of his 25-year career.
He set up his own aerial filming and charter company, Helivision, in 1998, and worked as a stunt pilot on action blockbusters including the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day, the Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II.
His TV filming credits included the 2012 London Olympics and 2004 Athens Games, as well as the popular BBC show Coast.
Broadcaster Alan Robson said: “He was a stylish, lovely guy. He could have auditioned for James Bond. He was handsome, the girls melted. He walked it and he talked it. He was a genuinely lovely guy. I am absolutely gutted.”
He added: “In a weird kind of way, the kind of person he was, maybe he was never going to go out quietly.”