Glasgow crash survivors pay respects to victims

Sisters Nancy Primrose and Ann Faulds were in the Clutha when the crash happened. Picture: Jon Savage
Sisters Nancy Primrose and Ann Faulds were in the Clutha when the crash happened. Picture: Jon Savage
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Survivors of the Clutha tragedy returned to the scene to pay tribute to those who had not been so lucky.

Flowers were lined up against the Holiday Inn opposite the pub, as friends, family and sympathetic strangers also came to pay their respects.

Anne Faulds, 47, came to pay tribute with her sister, Nancy Primrose, 55. The pair had arrived at the Clutha on Friday night for a drink to celebrate Nancy’s recovery from a difficult spinal operation.

Finding the bar was busy they turned left as they came in the front door instead of turning right and heading towards where the band was playing. When the helicopter crashed Nancy was blown out of the bar and Anne blown further in. Each thought the other was dead.

Nancy recalled: “It sounded like a dull thud. There were no sparks or light. Then I felt somebody dragging me out.”

Anne said: “I had managed to stand in a wee corner and that saved my life. I was in there for ten minutes but there were so many people that it didn’t look like they were being pulled across the floor but out of the cellar. What I thought I had seen was debris, but it was probably the helicopter. At first we thought it was a bomb.”

When Anne finally made it out of the pub, Nancy collapsed with relief.

After laying down flowers yesterday, Nancy said: “We came down for the people who didn’t come out. For their families. It just seems so quiet now.”

Craig Bain, 35, from Renfrew, had been drinking in the Clutha when the helicopter crashed. Visibly distressed, with a white bandage around his head, he said he had come from the hospital to pay respects.

“I just remember waking up and being pulled out by a fireman,” he said. “I can’t remember anything after that. I’ve just came out of hospital.”

“There was a man on the news whose dad was right next to me. He was one of the dead.”

The operation to retrieve the bodies of the remaining victims progressed slowly and steadily last night. Firemen continued to pick through metal and masonry, all under the watchful eye of dozens of bystanders who lined up at the crash barriers.

It was, as detective chief constable Rose Fitzpatrick explained on a visit to the site, “a painstaking process” because of the necessity both to protect the firefighters and preserve evidence at the scene.

As she said: “It is a difficult and complex operation, and great care and sensitivity is required in order to preserve the integrity of the site, which is part of the investigation.”

Earlier in the morning, the tail of the helicopter was removed. For most of the day, firemen worked on attaching steel cables and supports in advance of the delicate operation to hoist it up and out of the pub. The giant arm of a crane to which the cables are attached waited patiently to be called into action.

For Judith Murray, 50, who works in the social work department’s offices a few hundred metres away, the Clutha was her local, a place she and her colleageues popped in to on the way home from work.

She arrived bearing flowers and both relief and regret; relief that her friends were absent that night but regret for those who lost their lives: “I went to bed early on Friday night and the first I knew was the next morning when someone sent me a picture of the Clutha and I thought it was a spoof. I couldn’t quite believe it.”

All day, work went on within the Clutha, the most visible symbol of which was firefighters moving across the roof and lowering pieces of metal down to the ground.

An insight into how badly Police Scotland has been hit by the disaster in which two police officers and a civilian pilot were killed was provided by the Reverend Neil Galbraith, the service chaplain for Police Scotland. He has been a constant presence, apart from short breaks to visit the victims’ families.

He said: “We are now starting to see the real pain come to the fore. When they are away from the firing line, that is when you really start to see people being affected. This morning, we had officers that are well known to us and some of them are inconsolable. This has been a blow to the heart of Glasgow, but the strength of the people of Glasgow will shine through.”

He described the family of one of the dead officers as: “Distraught, frustrated, angry. They will tell their own story when the time comes, because it comes back to the police family.”

As the sky darkened and the preparatory work on the helicopter’s removal continued, Rev Galbraith said he hoped it would not be too long before another police helicopter took to the skies above Glasgow.

“That helicopter was a symbol in the sky that we were watching over this city. My grandson used to wave to the helicopter as it went past. My grandson asked yesterday: ‘Will there be another one?’ Let’s hope to God there is because our helicopter had a vital role to play in this city.

“Our helicopter had a vital role to play, not just in the law and justice of the city, but in making people feel safe and secure that they were being watched.”