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The Vauxhall helicopter crash – three years on

The third anniversary of the fatal Vauxhall helicopter crash has just been observed

Vauxhall helicopter crash

18 January 2016

Three years ago a helicopter crashed into a crane in Vauxhall killing two and injuring many others.

The Vauxhall incident was the first fatal helicopter crash in Central London since records began in 1976 and it saw numerous questions asked about the cause. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch reported on how the incident took place in poor weather conditions with low cloud and very limited visibility.

Having been unable to land at Elstree Aerodrome, the AAIB concluded that the pilot was probably trying to land at London Heliport instead and descended through “increasingly challenging weather conditions when he struck the crane at St George’s Wharf”.

Red warning lights at the top of the crane were not switched on because they only officially needed to be lit at night.  Media reports highlighted that the pilot may have been distracted by text messages or the need to change radio frequency. 

With no requirement needing to be given by local planning authorities to notify the Civil Aviation Authority when granting planning permission for obstacles over 300 feet, the AAIB noted “There is no effective system in place to anticipate the potential effects of new obstacles on existing air space”.

The resulting AAIB report led to a number of recommendations including a mechanism for reporting and management of obstacles and newly permitted developments.

Tragically, since the Vauxhall incident we have seen a succession of devastating helicopter accidents, notably when a police helicopter crashed into Clutha Vaults, a pub on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow causing the deaths of 10 people.

Daniel Easton, a partner at Leigh Day, dealt with claims arising from the Vauxhall Helicopter incident. He has recovered substantial damages over £100,000 for victims of the crash from the injuries they suffered as a result of helicopter debris raining down, and the shock caused by witnessing the events.

Having spoken to many witnesses and those involved, Daniel said

“Many of those involved in the crane industry thought this was an accident waiting to happen. Cranes in London have been getting higher and higher, and helicopter traffic in the years preceding the incident could be anything up to 4,000 flights or more per month. It was everyone’s worst fear”.

Daniel acted for those who were both injured physically and mentally. 

He said, “Our case was quite clear; that under the Civil Aviation Act 1982, which deals with accidents in flight, damages had to be paid without the need to prove negligence.  Credit to the company dealing with the claims, they accepted the need to rehabilitate victims, offering professional medical support and early payments. 

"Invariably that helped our clients to get better sooner. It makes a big difference when you get a proactive defendant who recognises the need to help people, rather than just treat them as a statistic or insurance liability”.

One of Daniel’s clients commented “We would also like to thank you, you have been a great support to us through your legal advice and help over this process. We have been really impressed by your professionalism”.

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