FRIENDS and colleagues of Captain Pete Barnes, who was killed in a helicopter crash in London, have paid tribute to the former North East-based pilot.
Capt Barnes, who was married with children, spent several years in the region helping to save countless lives as a Great North Air Ambulance pilot, as well as becoming Metro Radio’s first ever “eye in the sky” traffic and travel presenter.
He died when the helicopter he was flying clipped a crane on top of one of Europe’s tallest residential towers before crashing near Vauxhall station.
The 50-year-old, who had worked as a stunt pilot in films such as Die Another Day, Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II, was killed instantly.
Last night, police named the other person who died in the crash as pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton, south London.
A total of 12 people were also injured, including one person with a broken leg.
Commander Neil Basu, of the Metropolitan Police, said it was “a miracle” more people were not hurt. In one case of good fortune, it was reported that the crane driver avoided near-certain death because he was late for his shift and had not reached his cabin.
Witnesses described hearing a loud bang and a flash of light as debris scattered and the aircraft crashed.
Last night, Kevin Hodgson, director of operations at the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAAS), told how he worked alongside Capt Barnes on “dozens” of life-saving missions during his eight years freelancing at the charity.
The 53-year-old 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.”