“My policing role in Vauxhall helicopter crash”, by Newham Police Borough Commander

11:00 23 January 2013

Ch Supt Rob Jones

Ch Supt Rob Jones


One of the things about working for the Met is that you never know what your day will bring - and I often reflect, after an unexpected turn of events, on the wise saying that “life is what happens while you are planning something else”.

The fuel from the helicopter on fire. Picture: Nic Walker (@nic0)/TwitterThe fuel from the helicopter on fire. Picture: Nic Walker (@nic0)/Twitter

On Wednesday, I set off early from home to get to a police control room in Vauxhall in order to co-ordinate a “Big Wing” Total Policing day of enforcement action across London to tackle criminals using cars and to seize uninsured vehicles.

This had involved a lot of planning and resources: lots of policing teams were out across London, using technology like automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and intelligence systems to maximise our impact and make a real difference to the governançe of our streets.

We always mount a significant operation in Newham to contribute to this, and this week was no exception.

But at 8am, as I reviewed the first wave of police activity with the tasking team, I became aware of a serious incident where a helicopter collided with a crane - very close to where we were working.

I changed quickly to a command role from our Special Operations Room in Lambeth, managing the resources and tactical response of the emergency services, local authority emergency planning, NHS and civil contingencies.

This was a major incident for which we all come together to do our best to save lives, prevent injury and damage, preserve evidence (in this event for the Air Investigation Branch), and look after the welfare of the people who are involved or displaced by what has happened.

It is a significant challenge and often unexpected - but it is never not planned for.

I always leave such tragic incidents in the hope that we have done all we can to help and responded professionally - and I am deeply aware that while for most of us we move on quickly with our lives, while for the families of the two men who died so suddenly and unexpectedly everything has changed and they will remain in my thoughts this week as I move on to plan for when we are needed next time.

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