Billy Connolly visits Clutha helicopter crash site

Billy Connolly said he was “proud to be a Glaswegian” in the aftermath of The Clutha helicopter crash as he visited the scene of the tragedy yesterday.

Billy Connolly lays flowers close to the Clutha where nine people died. Picture: HEMEDIA
Billy Connolly lays flowers close to the Clutha where nine people died. Picture: HEMEDIA

The 71-year-old comedian, who grew up in the city and performed in the pub as a musician, said he had “many happy times in there”.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, also came to pay his respects yesterday and said the rest of Britain had been inspired by how the city had coped when a police helicopter plunged into a city centre pub on Friday night.

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His comments came as a £40,000 appeal fund was launched to help survivors and the families of the nine victims.

Billy Connolly lays flowers close to the Clutha where nine people died. Picture: HEMEDIA

Connolly laid a bouquet of flowers yesterday with a note that read “Rest in Peace friends, Billy Connolly”.

He said he heard about the crash while in New York and wanted to pay his respects to those who died.

“It’s very sad but it means quite a lot to me. I have played in all of these pubs. The Clutha was a good music pub. They didn’t mind banjo players, which makes a change,” he said.

“I had many happy times in there. Glasgow has really risen to the occasion. I have never heard so many nice things about Glasgow.

Police have named the nine people who died. Picture: PA

“I had to do something; I couldn’t just let it pass though I have never done anything like this before. Everybody’s talking about how well Glasgow coped. I was very, very proud to be a Glaswegian.”

Mr Clegg praised the “extraordinary spontaneous manner in which everyone worked together” and said: “You can try and prepare for emergencies like this as much as you like but the greatest ingredient is community spirit.”

During his visit the Deputy Prime Minister met emergency workers, survivors and members of the local community, as well as making a visit to St Andrew’s Cathedral, where nine candles were lit on the altar, one for each of the victims. Afterwards he said: “Everybody came together … a city that has its fair share of divisions over time has actually come together in a remarkably united way and that has shone through to the rest of the country.”

Glasgow City Council has launched the Clutha Appeal Fund with a donation of £20,000 – matched by another £20,000 from the Scottish Government. The fund is being put in place to help the families of the nine as well as those injured.

Picture: HeMedia

Sadie Docherty, the Lord Provost who launched the appeal, said: “Around the world people have admired the courage shown by ordinary Glaswegians whose first instinct when tragedy struck was to run towards danger to help those in peril. Today that desire to help is still strong and the Clutha Appeal Fund will give the city an opportunity to make sure the care, compassion and solidarity it has shown in the last few days continues.”

Both Police Scotland and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have begun inquiries into the crash. The wreckage of the helicopter arrived at the AAIB’s headquarters in Farnborough last night and a provisional report is expected within the next few days.

Yesterday at the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “We expect a preliminary report within the next few days, but full and final findings are not likely to be available for a number of months.

“We will make it clear that it would be very much in the interests of all concerned if that investigation is carried forward as quickly as humanly possible.”

Rescue and emergency service workers use a crane to remove the wreckage of the crashed police helicopter. Picture: Hemedia

The First Minister also said that he wished to put on record the parliament’s gratitude to those who went to the aid of the injured.

He said: “Tragedies do not define people, cities or countries. We are defined by how we respond to tragedy. As we mourn those who have died, we can also reflect on the compassion, sympathy and solidarity demonstrated in recent days throughout Scotland and beyond. This should be a source of pride and comfort for all of us, even in sorrow and adversity.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Salmond had visited Glasgow City Chambers and signed the book of condolence.

Eleven of the 32 people injured in the crash are still in hospital, with seven being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, three of whom are still in intensive care. Another three are at the spinal injuries unit at the Southern General Hospital while one patient was being treated at the Western Infirmary.

The funeral of Tony Collins, one of the two police constables in the helicopter, will take place on Arran next Tuesday.

Book of condolence

After the visit to the crash site and St Andrews Cathedral, the deputy Prime Minister made his way to the City Chambers to sign the book of condolence which earlier today had also been signed by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.

More than 650 people, including survivors, children and students, have signed the book.

Mr Salmond said: “I had a look at some of the messages when I was able to sign the book today and people are expressing sympathy, condolence obviously, as you would expect, but also solidarity.

“The theme running through the messages is one of solidarity. The citizens of Glasgow grouping round those who have suffered loss or injury and showing that they care, and the people of Scotland grouping round the citizens of Glasgow - it’s solidarity that runs through the book of condolence.

“Both in terms of the citizens, the ordinary people of Glasgow, and in terms of the work of the emergency services over these last few appalling days, that response has been terrific.

“People are not defined by tragedy - tragedy is a part of the fabric of life, even appalling disasters like the one that we’ve experienced.

“People are defined by how they respond to tragedies. That applies to people and families and cities and countries and in the response of the citizens of Glasgow, the response of our emergency services, even in this moment of calamity we can all walk that bit taller from knowing how Glasgow and Scotland has responded to this extremity.”

He said an interim report on the incident from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) could be ready within a week but that the final report may take many months.

Friends and families seek solace and strength in memories of the loved and lost

TRIBUTES have been paid to the oldest and youngest victims of the Glasgow helicopter crash after the recovery operation drew to a close.

Robert Jenkins, 61, and Colin Gibson, 33, were two of the last of the nine casualties of the Clutha tragedy to be named by police.

The bodies of the victims were released to their families yesterday.

Father-of-two Mr Jenkins, from East Kilbride, was a widower.

Retired after several years working for British Gas, he was also an avid film fan and enjoyed playing a part in various creative projects in his spare time.

Paul Darroch, a lifelong friend, told The Scotsman: “I know it’s such a cliche, but he genuinely was a really, really nice man. He was one of the good guys, always really gentlemanly and polite. I think he was enjoying life. He had a passion for film and music and that’s why he was at the Clutha.”

Mr Darroch said that after learning of the tragedy on Saturday morning, he suspected his friend may have been at the bar. “I sent him a text that morning just to ask if he was okay, but obviously I never heard anything back,” he recalled. “It’s very tragic.”

Mr Darroch, the founder of Oak Tree Productions, an independent film production firm in Glasgow working on its first feature film, said Mr Jenkins had been an invaluable source of support in his career.

Mr Gibson, originally from Neilston in East Renfrewshire, was a civil servant who lived in Ayr with his partner.

Dionne Chivas, a 24-year-old from the South Ayrshire town, said Mr Gibson was her cousin’s partner, and she had known him for around two years.

She said: “He was a lovely guy who would speak to everybody and he was really family-orientated. He loved to be around them. It is just so sad that he passed away. He will be sadly missed and never be forgotten. My condolences go out to his family.

“I never had a dull moment with him. You were always laughing and smiling in his presence.”

Four other people in the pub were killed in Friday’s tragedy: Mark O’Prey, 44, from East Kilbride; John McGarrigle, 57, from Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire; Gary Arthur, 48, from Paisley, and Samuel McGhee, 56, from Castlemilk in Glasgow.

All three of the helicopter’s crew died as it returned from a police operation at 10:25pm on Friday. They were pilot David Traill, 51, and officers Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43.

Eleven people remain in hospitals across the city.