Carn man just missed London chopper crash

A general view of the damaged crane on top of St Georges Tower close to the scene where a helicopter crashed in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 16, 2013. See PA story ACCIDENT Helicopter. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
A general view of the damaged crane on top of St Georges Tower close to the scene where a helicopter crashed in central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 16, 2013. See PA story ACCIDENT Helicopter. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

A Carndonagh man who witnessed Wednesday’s tragic helicopter crash in London said that had he been late for work he could have easily been killed.

It is believed that the helicopter collided with a high rise construction crane at around 8a.m. The wrecked helicopter then hurtled to the ground, killing the pilot on board and a pedestrian.

Owen Doherty, (26), who spoke exclusively to the Derry Journal, is a site manager working for Gallidris Construction Ltd in south London and recalled what he saw seconds before the helicopter collided with the crane.

“I drive up and down the road the helicopter crashed onto every single day on my way to work. We start at 7.30a.m. but had I even been half an hour late for work I could have been right in the middle of the accident,” said Owen.

He added: “My site is only a few hundred metres away from where the helicopter crashed. I was in the office in work and a few of the other lads I work with called me to come outside. I could see the helicopter and it was flying really low - it was making a strange sound and that’s when it hit the crane.

“It was really foggy so I didn’t actually see it colliding with the crane but when the helicopter hit the ground it exploded. It was the loudest sound I have ever heard and a few of the lads I work with thought it was a terrorist attack.

“Like the other lads, I thought a bomb had gone off or something and after talking to a few people they said what was going on in south London on Wednesday was reminiscent of what happened in the city on the day of the 7/7 terrorist attacks.”

Owen and his colleagues were ordered by the police to evacuate their building site minutes after the incident amid fears that the crane, which appeared unsafe after the collision, might fall on top of them.

“After the crash, I could see that a big part of the crane was just hanging off the side of the building. The police were afraid of what would happen if it fell to the ground so they evacuated our building site along with other houses and nearby buildings.

“We were all sent home straight away and it wasn’t until I got into my house and turned on the television that I realised the true extent of what happened. It’s a miracle that more people didn’t lose their lives.”

Owen, a former member of Carndonagh GAA club and a former pupil of Carndonagh Community School, has been working at the south London construction site since November and returned to work yesterday morning. He said his initial reaction after the incident was to contact his family in Carndonagh to let them know he was ok.

“One of the lads I work with got a phone call from his fiancée. It was all over the news so I thought I’d better ring home straight away.

“I was in Carndonagh a few weeks ago for Christmas and to see my sister who got engaged and I had been telling them where I was working. They were glad when I phoned to tell them I was ok.”