‘Three dead’ in pub helicopter crash

30 Nov

 

Rescue workers cover the wreckage of a police helicopter which crashed onto the roof of the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said it was “a black day for Glasgow”
 

Three people have died after a police helicopter crashed into a busy pub in Glasgow, the BBC understands.

Police Scotland have confirmed one death but said they expected the final number of fatalities would be higher. A rescue operation is continuing.

The crash happened at The Clutha in Stockwell Street at 22:25 on Friday.

There were three people on board the helicopter – two officers and a civilian pilot. Thirty-two people have been taken to local hospitals.

scene of crash

The emergency services remain involved in a “search and recovery” operation

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond told a press conference it was a “black day for Scotland.”

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the bravery of the “ordinary Glaswegians” who rushed to help.

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House confirmed that one person had died and further fatalities were expected after the helicopter crashed on to the roof of the pub.

He said they “can’t say definitively” whether there are people still trapped within the pub, and added “we are still in a search and recovery phase”.

Chief Constable House went on: “This is a very difficult and sensitive operation. The scene is, as you will understand, a particularly challenging one.

“Given the damage caused and the nature of the damage, it will take some time to complete the search of the building and to assess how we begin the investigation.

“Clearly the safety of those conducting the search is of the highest importance.”

Mr Salmond said: “This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland but it is also St Andrew’s Day and we can take pride in how we respond to adversity.

“The response from our emergency services and citizens has been exemplary.”

It has been reported that about 120 people were in the pub at the time of the crash. Many were rescued or escaped but others were trapped by a collapse on the left-hand side of the building.

Emergency services have erected barriers around the scene and specialist rescue teams remain at the scene.

• A large area of the city centre has been cordoned off

• Mass held at St Andrew’s Cathedral in city for those involved in crash and emergency services involved in response

• Council has cancelled St Andrew’s Day celebrations in George Square as a mark of respect

• A minute’s silence was held ahead of the Falkirk v Rangers match

• Injured were taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Western Infirmary and the Victoria Infirmary

• Some of those who were in pub taken to a nearby Holiday Inn Express

• Police Scotland Casualty Bureau number is 0800 092 0410 – for those concerned about relatives

• Glasgow City Council has opened a family reception centre at 40 John Street

• Investigation into what happened is under way

• Air Accident Investigation Branch is in Glasgow.

Speaking from the press conference at the multi-agency command centre in Glasgow, Fire Scotland deputy chief officer Alex Clark said: “Along with our emergency service colleagues, we responded very, very quickly and pulled out all the measures that we possibly could in order to rescue people who were affected by this incident.

“I can assure you that until such time as there is an inevitable outcome we will undoubtedly remain on site and carry on our rescue activities in the best way that we possibly can.”

Helicopter crash scene at the Clutha pub

The Police Scotland helicopter crashed onto the roof of the pub as a band was performing

Gary Hardacre, who is leading the Scottish Ambulance Service response, said: “All of our thoughts and condolences are with those that have been affected by this tragic incident.

“We have been working with our partners in the police and fire service to ensure a joined-up response, and provide the best possible care that we can for the people affected by this.”

William Byrne, 45, from Coatbridge, who was in the pub when the helicopter came down, returned to the scene this morning.

“There was a loud bang. Then there was dust and the lights went out. It was surreal,” he told BBC Scotland.

‘We didn’t know what had happened. At our side of the pub at least two people were trapped under the gantry. Myself and others lifted it up and managed to get them out. I spent some time with one injured man.”

He added: “At our side of the pub I would say there were less than 10 people injured, mainly walking wounded, not seriously injured. One girl had clearly been hit on the head – she had a big bump.

“The other side of the pub took the brunt. Myself and my friends managed to get out without a scratch. Everyone helped everyone else to get out.”

Helicopter operator Bond Air Services said it was working with the police and emergency services.

A statement added: “Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic incident.”

About 250 people attended a special service at St Andrew’s Cathedral on Saturday afternoon.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia told worshipers: “We pray for those who have lost their lives, who are injured, the bereaved, and the emergency services and members of the public.

“We pray for our city of Glasgow, which is in mourning today.”

Jim Murphy, the Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, was in the area at the time of the helicopter crash and said he ran into the pub to help before emergency services arrived.

He told the BBC there was “pandemonium” as people tried to get out of the pub.

“It was almost like slow motion,” he said, adding: “People just formed a bit of human chain, side by side with each other, to help pull injured people out.”

The shadow cabinet minister, who had blood on his shirt which he said was not his, described what he saw as a “horrific scene”.

Man at crash scene

Local people have gathered at the scene

The band who were playing in the pub at the time of the crash, Esperanza, have released a statement on their Facebook page.

Bassist Jess wrote: “Waking up and realising that it is all definitely horribly real. Despite the situation everyone was so helpful and caring of each other.

“The police, ambulances, firefighters all did a stellar job and continue to do so today in extremely difficult conditions.”

Eyewitness Fraser Gibson, 34, was inside the pub with his brother to see his former band, Esperanza.

“Midway through their set it sounded like a giant explosion,” he told BBC Scotland.

“Part of the room was covered in dust. We didn’t know what had happened. We froze for a second; there was panic and then people trying to get out the door.”

Mr Gibson added: “I would say there was maybe 120 people inside the pub. A lot of people managed to get out straight away, but it was hard to tell how many were actually trapped in the other half of the bar.”

He said there had been no indication a helicopter had caused the devastation, adding: “The roof had just totally collapsed.

“There were shards of wood sticking out the top but nothing that said there had been a helicopter crash.”

Map of the area

Eddie Waltham, a former firefighter who had a friend inside the pub, told the BBC: “A roof joist came down and hit him and pushed him towards the window which is at the left side of the left door.”

He added later: “My own reaction was to run straight up to the pub.

“It was amazing to watch just how people were trying so hard to get into this building.”

John McGarrigle has spent the night at the scene and said he feared his father had been in the pub at the time of the crash: “I’ve checked every hospital and there’s no sign of him. I’m very anxious.”

Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said his heart went out to the families affected.

He also praised the response of ordinary people in the area before the emergency services arrived.

Mr Matheson said: “People who were in the pub, the people who were in the streets and who just helped out their fellow human beings who were out having a good time.

“It’s Glasgow at its best you know, if people are in need the spontaneous response is to go to their help. And I want to pay great tribute to that and I’m very proud as leader of the city that that was the reaction. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This is a tragic event and our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends who lost a loved one last night.

“I want to thank the emergency services who worked tirelessly throughout the night and I also want pay tribute to the bravery of the ordinary Glaswegians who rushed to help.

“We have offered the Scottish government our support in any way we can and we are all wishing a speedy recovery to those who are injured.”

Clutha scene

The roof of the pub has been covered with tarpaulins

Labour leader Ed Miliband described the crash as an “unimaginable horror”.

He added: “I know there will be lots of people worried about their loved ones who are unaccounted for and my thoughts are with them and also with the people of Glasgow who are an incredibly strong people, who showed, I think last night, in their reaction when the helicopter hit, a great bravery, a great courage, great calm in the midst of all this.”

In 2002, a police Eurocopter EC-135 came down in a field in Ayrshire. All three people on board survived.

In 1990, a police sergeant was killed when a Bell Jet 206 helicopter crashed in bad weather at Newton Mearns in East Renfrewshire.

BBC © 2013
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