SURVIVORS of the Clutha Bar tragedy in Glasgow have recalled the crash, four months to the day since a helicopter plunged into the pub, killing ten people.
John Robson, Calum Grierson, Ian Kelly, Danny Docherty and Aitken Hunter spoke about the moment the Police Scotland aircraft hit the roof during a busy Friday night on 29 November.
The crash claimed the lives of all three people on board and seven in the bar. A memorial service is due to be held at Glasgow Cathedral at 11am today.
The group of friends had met there on the last Friday of every month, along with friend Joe Cusker, who died of his injuries two weeks after the crash.
Speaking in a TV interview, Mr Robson, who suffered serious back injuries, recalled that the group was late getting into the Clutha and the corner they usually stood at was occupied, so they ended up near the door, which he said was to have tragic repercussions. “If we had been in the other corner, we would have all walked out,” he said.
Mr Robson said they had since been back at the crash site, once during the visit from the Prince of Wales, and saw how close they were to being crushed. “It’s a sobering thought,” he added.
His friend Mr Cusker, who later died, was standing next to him when the helicopter hit.
“I turned away from him to talk to Calum and then it just went black. Big bang.”
In the ensuing moments, he said that there was total confusion: “I was wandering about in a daze. I thought a bomb had went off. I was saying to myself, ‘Who would bomb the Clutha?’ Then I thought, ‘Hold on a minute, I’m alive, I better get out of here’.”
However, he found he was unable to move as his friend Mr Grierson had pinned him to the floor. “Alan got him off and there was a board across me that was lifted and I was able to move myself back towards the door, because I could see the light of the door.”
Mr Grierson recalled the moment the crash happened and how “the roof just came in”.
Mr Kelly said that what had been a “bright, vibrant scene, suddenly became dark”. “All we knew is that our friends were standing there one minute, laughing and joking, and all of a sudden there was nothing,” he said.
Even when told by rescuers what had taken place and upon seeing a rotor blade protruding from the roof, the friends said that they had trouble believing the events of that night. “It was,” Mr Docherty said, “too surreal.”
He added that the crash had affected both them and their families deeply.
“It’s a tragedy for everybody and they are very much in our thoughts,” he said.
Mr Docherty added, however, that the group wanted to continue their traditional get-together on the last Friday of the month in tribute to Mr Cusker.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has said the helicopter suffered a double engine failure. Its report, published last month, said both engines “flamed out” but did not pinpoint the cause. The investigation is ongoing, though some commentators have suggested there was a problem with the fuel supply.
Archbishop Philip Tartaglia will lead the Clutha helicopter memorial service at St Andrew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, just yards from the scene of the accident.