AN inquest has opened into the death of a former North-East air ambulance pilot, who was killed in a helicopter crash in central London last week.

Pete Barnes, 50, who flew countless missions with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Great North Air Ambulance Service, died of multiple injuries after the helicopter he was flying hit a high-rise crane on The Tower at St George Wharf, Vauxhall, and crashed into Wandsworth Road, the inquest was told.

Coroner Andrew Harris heard Capt Barnes had been diverted because of bad weather before his aircraft clipped a crane and  plunged to the ground.

Capt Barnes, a father-of-two, had been flying from Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey to Elstree in Hertfordshire but was diverted to Battersea heliport due to the bad weather, Southwark Coroners Court heard.

He was flying a twin-engine Agusta Westland 109 helicopter.

Police, the fire brigade and the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (Hems) all attended the scene and Mr Barnes was pronounced dead by the Hems doctor, the coroner was told.

Dr Harris said he would review the case in three months and did not set a date for a future hearing.

The veteran pilot, who had 25 years experience, had flown as an air ambulance pilot and in several films during his career including Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan and Tomb Raider II.

Capt Barnes, from Berkshire, has been described as a 'good guy who was full of life and great fun'.

He was born in Nottingham on December 9 1962 and was single, the inquest heard.

Capt Barnes was involved in a daring rescue at Stanhope Ford, in Weardale, in 2004, when he and colleague Kevin Hodgson rescued a driver who had become trapped in rising flood water.

Pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton, Surrey, was also killed in last week's tragedy as he walked to work.

He died from severe burns and a leg injury, a post-mortem examination revealed last week.

Neighbour Yvonne Humphries said he was a "lovely man" and his sister, Amanda Wood, said he was "a big guy with a big heart" who doted on his godson, his brother Darren's child.

The coroner did not set a date for the opening of the inquest into Mr Wood's death.