ITV last night pressed ahead with its decision to screen a controversial soap opera episode described as “disrespectful and insensitive” to the victims of the Clutha disaster.
The broadcaster screened an episode of Emmerdale which featured a helicopter crash through the roof of a village hall, killing off a leading cast member.
The plotline prompted widespread criticism from relatives and friends of the ten people who lost their lives in the 2013 tragedy, when a police helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow city centre, killing ten people.
Despite an online petition which attracted more than 1,000 signatures as of yesterday evening urging producers to cancel the screening, ITV went ahead with the programme as scheduled.
Kerry McGhee, whose father Samuel was one of those who lost their lives in the incident, was among the signatories to the petition, set up the charitable body, the Clutha Trust.
She said she found it “disgusting” that the show’s creators wanted to use such a scenario as a storyline.
Billy Coyle, a member of the trust, said survivors and others like Ms McGhee were “dreading” the broadcast. He explained: “The producers didn’t even speak to anyone in the Clutha to let them know it was happening.
“It was just a week ago we opened the Clutha, and it’s still raw. A lot of the family members and survivors were sitting there together and that was very brave of them to come back to the Clutha.
“Now this has come along and the families are contacting me to say they don’t know how they’ll cope.”
Alan Crossan, owner of the bar which was reopened during a private ceremony attended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, relatives of those killed and members of the emergency services, described the TV plot as being “beyond poor taste.”
“I can’t understand why they thought it would be a good idea considering what happened 20 months ago,” he said. “It is disrespectful, especially as the families are still waiting for answers.”
John McGarrigle jnr, whose father John died in the crash, described the plot as a “cheap trick to boost ratings.”
One member of the public to sign the petition, John Wells from Scarborough, wrote: “I’m very concerned about the trend of TV producers blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, and turning serious news items about real human tragedy and suffering into a sickening and trite form of entertainment.”
ITV said it always “considers carefully the content of its programming” and in a statement, a spokesman detailed the events leading up to the fictional crash.
He said: “The helicopter crash circumstances are very different to any real-life cases that we are aware of.
“The accident occurs as a consequence of Chrissie setting fire to her cheating husband’s car which spreads to the scrapyard. Gas canisters are ignited and explode into the air striking the helicopter.”