Dagenham lorry driver who saw helicopter crash: Crane operator would have been “wiped out” if he was at work on time

The scene of the helicopter crash in Vauxhall. Picture: steveheard82/Twitter

The scene of the helicopter crash in Vauxhall. Picture: steveheard82/Twitter - Credit: Archant

The operator of the crane which was hit by a helicopter in London this morning only survived because he was running late and had not reached his cabin when the aircraft crashed, a Dagenham lorry driver said.

Speaking after the terrifying incident that killed both the pilot, named as Pete Barnes from charter firm Rotormotion, and a person on the ground, Paul Robinson, 42, said the crane driver would have been “wiped out” if he had arrived at work on time this morning.

Instead, he was still climbing up the crane’s shaft when disaster struck.

Site workers said the man, who has not yet been identified, had not been late before.

He is understood to have been held up while dropping his children at school.

Mr Robinson, a father-of-two, said: “He was halfway up to his cabin, he was making his way up by ladders when the helicopter hit.

“He would have been wiped out if he had been on time.

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“It was a very lucky escape.”

The lorry driver said he was “100 per cent” sure the man would have been killed if he had already been in position at the time he was due to be at work.

The crane operator, who had been harnessed to the structure, is recovering from his ordeal.

Mr Robinson said he was waiting in his lorry in a queue to drive into the site when the crash happened.

As debris fell from the sky and hit the back of his lorry, he leapt out, believing another driver had bumped into him.

But as he looked up, he saw a “ball of fire”.

He added: “I just ran. I panicked. My mind went blank and fuzzy. There was a ball of fire and someone said the helicopter had come down and hit the crane.”

Mr Robinson said he visited the site several times a week to collect waste.

The above video, posted by Channel 4 News, shows the aftermath of the crash.