FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to attend this evening’s re-opening of the Clutha Bar in Glasgow, more than 18 months after the helicopter crash which killed 10 people at the city centre pub.
A private reception is being held at 5pm, where Ms Sturgeon, relatives of the victims, survivors and emergency service workers will set foot in the refurbished bar.
It will then re-open to the public at 8pm when, in keeping with its tradition as a popular live music venue, local band Black Triangles are due to play a set.
The bar’s owner, Alan Crossan, said it was a “very emotional” day and hoped it could mark a “start to the process” of bringing closure to those affected by the tragedy.
Lawyers representing the victims of the disaster on 29 November 2013 described the pub’s re-opening as an “important step forward” for the city, but warned the continued wait for answers is preventing families from being able to move on from the crash.
Mr Crossan said: “It is very emotional - today is the day we give the Clutha back to Glasgow. Hopefully this can be a start to the process of bringing closure for the people affected
“The music is coming back to the Clutha and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped us or thought about us over the past 600 days.”
Since the crash, the interior of the old pub has remained sealed off, but a new bar has been erected in the Clutha’s former smoking area. The exterior of the building has been redecorated with a mural of famous former customers of the bar, including Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty.
Mr Crossan, 62, added: “The set up is a temporary solution but I felt we had to do something to help everyone affected by this. I’ve always said the Clutha wasn’t about bricks and mortar, it was about the people, the music.”
Pilot David Traill, who was attached to the Police Scotland air support unit, and police constables Tony Collins and Kirsty Nelis were killed when the Eurocopter EC 135 crashed on to the building.
Those killed in the pub were John McGarrigle, Mark O’Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins and Samuel McGhee. Joe Cusker was pulled from the wreckage alive but later died in hospital.
An initial report said the aircraft suffered engine failure. The final conclusions of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch are expected to be released imminently.
Elaine Russell, a partner at Irwin Mitchell Scotland, who is acting for the victims, said: “Glasgow has had to endure some incredibly difficult tragedies in the past couple of years and the re-opening of the Clutha pub is both an important step forward and testament to the strong community spirit within the city.
“While it is both a chance to remember the past and also look to a brighter future, it should be remembered that all of those who were injured or lost loved ones in the crash are still awaiting answers regarding what caused the helicopter to come down in the busy city centre on a Friday night.”
She added: “All of those we represent are still trying to come to terms with what they have been through or the loved ones they have lost and are unable to move on with their lives without any further information.
“We are continuing to work to ensure they get access to the financial support they deserve following this crash and have also helped them secure counselling support to help them following the crash. However, no amount of compensation is an adequate substitute for what these families need the most – answers regarding what happened.”
Speaking earlier this year, Ms Sturgeon described the reopening as a “major landmark” in the recovery of the city and its people.
“The tragedy impacted on everyone in the city and across the country,” she said.
“However, tragedies do not define people, cities or countries - they are defined by how we respond, how we endure and how we recover.”