Helicopter Victim Was ‘Big Guy With Big Heart’

The sister of one of the victims of the helicopter crash in London has told Sky News he was a “big guy with a big heart”.

Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton, was walking to work as a pest control manager when he was killed in Vauxhall after the aircraft hit a crane on The Tower in St George Wharf.

His sister Amanda Wood said he was a “gentle giant” who had been looking forward to planning his 40th birthday in April.

Chris Barnes, 55, also paid tribute to his brother, pilot Peter Barnes, the other person killed in the crash.

Describing him as a “good guy”, he said it would have been Peter’s “instinct” to do whatever he could to minimise casualties.

Ms Wood said her family had failed to get in contact with her brother after news of the crash emerged on Wednesday and were then told by police that he was one of the two victims.

“You just think, why couldn’t he be late for just one day in his life?” Ms Wood said.

She said her brother had “so much love to give” and always put his friends first.

Mr Barnes had 25 years and 10,500 hours of experience as a pilot, said his brother.

He said: “He was outgoing, very personable. A good-looking guy with an irrepressible smile.

“When he walked into a room you knew he was there, he lit up a room. He was a good guy.”

Mr Barnes had two children, 12-year-old Alexandra and eight-year-old Freddie, with his partner Rebecca Dixon.

She told the Evening Standard: “Obviously he would have been frantic and the lives of others would have been at the forefront of his mind.

“It sums up the man. I find it very comforting and so do the children.”

The mother of a workman who should have been in the crane that was hit by the AgustaWestland 109 Power has spoken of her relief that he overslept.

Richard Moule and Nicki Biagioni were late for work and hurrying to climb the crane when the helicopter clipped it at 8am and plunged 700ft to the ground.

Maureen Biaginoi wrote on her Facebook page: “Thank God my son is ok a bit shaken but alive.

“He defo has a guardian angel thank you thank you ssssooooo much.”

Mr Moule, 31, a father of two from Harlow, Essex, was supposed to be at work at 7am with his colleague Mr Biagioni, 30, but they were both late.

Mr Moule told the Daily Mail: “It was the first time I’ve been late since starting this job three years ago. I just woke up late. Call it divine intervention if you like.”

He was in the basement of the building when the helicopter struck the crane and was evacuated.

Mr Biagioni, from Ongar, Essex, told The Sun he was late because his four-year-old son had slept in.

His wife Leanna told the newspaper: “Nicki was at the site minutes before it happened. He gets a lift to a certain level and then climbs a ladder the rest of the way.

“If he’d been climbing he would have died from the fall for certain. It’s too horrible to think about.”

Mr Barnes, 50, from Berkshire, was alone in the aircraft in thick cloud when it hit the crane. It came down on land near to the building, strewing burning wreckage across the road.

The helicopter was undertaking a commercial flight from Redhill, Surrey, to Elstree, Hertfordshire, but Mr Barnes asked to be diverted to Battersea heliport because of bad weather.

Witnesses described hearing a loud bang and a flash of light as the twin-engine aircraft crashed near Wandsworth Road.

Video footage and photos flooded on to social media sites revealing chaotic scenes, burning wreckage and vehicles charred by flames.

Residents from nearby houses in Lambeth and Wandsworth were not allowed to return home on Wednesday night after debris was scattered over a large area, including on rooftops.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Barnes.

Kevin Hodgson, who worked alongside him on life-saving missions with the Great North Air Ambulance (GNAA), 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.”

Mr Barnes, who also flew aircraft for films Tomb Raider II and Saving Private Ryan, had around 9,000 hours of flying time, including 3,500 hours on the type of craft involved in the incident.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said helicopter regulations for flying over London included “requirements for lighting on tall structures”.

The authority said: “In addition, where appropriate, very tall structures are also notified to pilots for flight planning purposes, as was the case with the crane that was involved in this morning’s accident.”

Scotland Yard and the London Fire Brigade are working with other agencies including the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the CAA.