Tributes were paid last night to the victims of Friday’s Clutha tragedy, as police formally identified the three people on board the helicopter which crashed into the packed Glasgow pub.
Civilian pilot captain Dave Traill, 51, and two Police Scotland Pcs, Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43, were all members of an air support unit involved in an operation.
Both police officers had previously been commended for acts of bravery, while Capt Traill was a former RAF flight lieutenant who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sir Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, had earlier confirmed their identities in an emotional statement.
First Minister Alex Salmond said their grieving families could “take pride” in the service they had shown the people of Scotland and the fact that they died working to protect the public.
Five of the eight known victims have now been named. The death of Gary Arthur, 48, from Paisley, was confirmed by the police on Saturday night.
And John McGarrigle, 38, said an eyewitness told him that his father, also John McGarrigle, 59, was sitting under the part of the pub where the helicopter hit the roof. He said yesterday that police had asked him to formally identify a body, believed to be his father, which had been pulled from the wreckage of the Clutha.
Another two men – Sammy McGhee, Mr McGarrigle’s friend, and Mark O’Prey – were reported yesterday to be missing.
Family and friends were gathered at the home of Capt Traill in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, last night.
Irene MacMillan, 72, who lives on a nearby smallholding, told how he used to fly past his house occasionally to see his partner Lucy wave from their garden.
Ms MacMillan said: “I was devastated when I heard. He really was a hero. David and Lucy loved to spend time in their garden. They were a lovely couple and she must be devastated.
“David would sometimes fly past and circle around the house, while Lucy would stand out in the garden and wave to him.”
Meanwhile, Gary Arthur was last night described as “a fantastic man” by his neighbours in Paisley.
Bernadette Moran, 35, said: “He was one of the best neighbours and I’ll miss him deeply. My thoughts are with his family. Gary was a family man and very proud of his children. We looked out for one another. He used to look after my cats when I wasn’t well enough. I have epilepsy and when I had a seizure, Gary would call the ambulance and put me in the recovery position. He took good care of me.”
Mr Arthur’s daughter, Chloe, plays for both Celtic and Scotland in the under-19 women’s team. She wrote on Twitter: “RIP dad – you’ll always mean the world to me, I promise to do you proud, I love you with all my heart.”
A statement from the Glasgow club said: “The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic, including all of Chloe’s friends and team-mates at the club, are with Chloe and her family at this desperately sad time. Those thoughts and prayers are, of course, also with the families of all the victims of this terrible tragedy.”
Mr Salmond, who chaired meetings of the Scottish Government’s resilience committee yesterday, said: “We have known since Friday that fatalities were to be expected and that the devastation caused at the Clutha was of a significant scale. It is a difficult time for all of our emergency services, and particularly those police officers who have lost their close colleagues.
“The helicopter crew who have died were working to protect the public. Gary Arthur and the other civilian fatalities were enjoying themselves on a Friday night. These losses are keenly felt. Constable Kirsty Nelis and Constable Tony Collins, along with Captain Dave Traill, worked to keep us safe.
“Their families can take pride in the service they have shown the people of Scotland – service that has seen both officers commended for their bravery.”
He added: “Tragedies do not define people, cities or countries. They are defined by how we respond, how we endure and how we recover. We have responded, we endure, and Glasgow and Scotland will recover.”
Sir Stephen said: “Kirsty and Tony were members of Police Scotland’s operational support division. Captain Dave Traill worked for Bond Air Services and was very much part of the Police Scotland team.
“I would like to pay tribute to all three and recognise the important contribution they made to our public service and to the communities they have served.
“Since the tragic incident on Friday night, it has been an extremely difficult time for all those affected. Our thoughts and condolences remain with the families and friends of the people who have died. I would like to repeat my thanks to all the emergency services and partners who continue to work at the scene in what is a complex and difficult operation. I would also like to thank the many people who have expressed their sympathies and support for us. Everyone has taken great comfort from these words at such a difficult time.”
Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, paid tribute to “the big hearts of the people of Glasgow” for their support over the last few days and said his officers were “remarkably resilient”.
But he added: “This is a very sad day for the police service and communities of Scotland. It is very difficult.
“The first thing we have to do is recover all of the bodies so that the families can start mourning.”