Clutha crash: PC Kirsty Nelis funeral held

TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to a police constable who was one of nine people killed in the Clutha helicopter tragedy.

Nelis' coffin is carried by some of her police colleagues. Picture: PA

Kirsty Nelis was on board the Police Scotland helicopter which crashed into the roof of the Glasgow pub a week past Friday.

Her family, friends and colleagues gathered yesterday at her funeral, which was also attended by First Minister Alex Salmond and justice secretary Kenny MacAskill.

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The requiem mass was held at St Andrew’s Cathedral, around 200 metres from the scene of the accident. The married officer, who was 36, was part of the police’s helicopter unit and had received a commendation for her bravery in the past.

Constable Kirsty Nelis. Picture: Police Scotland

Ten uniformed officers lined the cathedral entrance and saluted as the coffin was carried in to the sound of a lone piper.

A police hat sat upon the coffin, which was draped with a white flag bearing the Police Scotland emblem.

Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty and Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson were also present at the service, led by the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia.

The crash occurred when PC Nelis and colleague PC Tony Collins, 43, were returning from a police operation on Friday 29 November.

They were killed alongside pilot David Traill, 51, and six others inside the pub: Mark O’Prey, 44; Gary Arthur, 48; Robert Jenkins, 61; Colin Gibson, 33; Samuel McGhee, 56; and John McGarrigle, 57.

A message on the back of the order of service said: “The family wishes to thank all relatives, friends and colleagues for their attendance, and for the overwhelming kindness, love and support shown at this sad time.”

Clutha owner Alan Crossan and manager Saverio Petri, who was using crutches, attended the mass. The archbishop said: “We offer our deepest sympathies to Kirsty’s husband Mark, to her mum and dad, to her brother, and to all her relatives and friends. We know that you have been devastated by Kirsty’s tragic, sudden and untimely loss.

“Together with you, putting our hope in Jesus, we pray for her eternal rest.

“And in a special way we offer our prayerful sympathies to her colleagues in the police service.”

The cathedral, which holds around 1,000 people, was full and many mourners listened while standing in the doorway.

The archbishop said: “Along with Kirsty, we pray for the other eight people who died in the tragedy, the injured, especially those who are still recovering, the bereaved, and all those who have been affected by this sad event. And we pray too for Police Scotland and for the city of Glasgow.”

He added: “Mark and her family are rightly proud of her, but their hearts nonetheless ache for the loss of her.”

Sir Stephen House, Chief Constable of Police Scotland, read from the Bible during the hour-long mass. Afterwards, mourners stood in silence outside the cathedral as the coffin was placed in the hearse.

A private service was held afterwards at Clydebank Crematorium.

It has not yet been established what caused the helicopter to fall out of the sky, though investigators say initial evidence so far rules out engine or gearbox failure.