THE pilot killed when a helicopter crashed in central London was a hero who helped save North-East lives flying air ambulances and put his skills to use in blockbuster Hollywood movies.

Captain Pete Barnes, 50, died when the helicopter he was piloting hit a crane on a tower block close to the River Thames and plummeted to the street below.

Another person was killed on the ground, with at least a dozen injured.

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The helicopter was bound for Elstree, in Hertfordshire, but was preparing to make an unscheduled stop at a helipad in central London, because of bad weather, when the incident happened.

No one was in the crane at the time of the crash and Metropolitan Police commander Neil Basu said it was “something of a miracle” that the accident was not more deadly.

Capt Barnes amassed more than 9,000 hours of flying time during a diverse 18-year career, which saw him work for both the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).

He worked as a stunt pilot on adverts, TV programmes and movies including the James Bond film Die Another Day, as well as Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II.

In 2004, he helped rescue a motorist stuck in his car in flooded Stanhope Ford, in County Durham.

Kevin Hodgson, from GNAAS, described Capt Barnes as “a great guy and one of the best pilots I’ve ever had the pleasure of flying with”.