Clutha heilcopter crash inquiry given top priority

FINDING out why a police helicopter crashed into a Glasgow pub, killing nine and injuring many more, will be the Air Accidents Investigation Branch’s (AAIB) top priority.

The helicopter wreckage is lifted from the roof of the Clutha bar. Picture: PA
The helicopter wreckage is lifted from the roof of the Clutha bar. Picture: PA
The helicopter wreckage is lifted from the roof of the Clutha bar. Picture: PA

As tributes continued to be paid to those killed in the Glasgow helicopter crash at The Clutha bar on Friday night, a detailed examination of the three-tonne Eurocopter EC135 began at an AAIB facility in Farnborough.

Investigators would not say what was being done yesterday or if any early lessons had been learned. However, they said the AAIB investigation would “take precedence” because the body is responsible for ensuring the safety of other aircraft.

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Police will continue to gather evidence and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is in charge of the overall inquiry.

Eurocopter has issued guidance to customers flying more than 1,000 of the models worldwide, but has not recommended grounding the fleet.

The manufacturer does not believe a crack in the mast – a problem detected in a Scottish Air Ambulance last year, which led to testing of the police helicopter – was responsible for the crash.

John Logue, procurator-fiscal for the east of Scotland, said: “The responsibility of the procurator-fiscal is to investigate all sudden and unexplained deaths, in particular in relation to incidents like this, with a view to determining at some point in the future whether there should be a criminal prosecution or a fatal accident inquiry.

“There is a lot of work to be done yet by a number of different organisations before any decision will be taken by the procurator fiscal as to whether there is to be a fatal accident inquiry.

“It is a high priority for us to keep the families of those who died as well-informed as we can throughout the investigation.”

The AAIB is not expected to deliver its full report for several months, but will release an interim statement within days if there are safety lessons which need to be learned.

Meanwhile, at least £45,000 has been donated to a resilience fund for the victims. While Glasgow City Council could not give a current figure, the local authority itself has made £20,000 available, an amount matched by the Scottish Government, with £5,000 coming from South Lanarkshire Council.

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Last night, 11 people injured in the crash remained in hospitals across Glasgow.

The people in the bar who died were Robert Jenkins, 61; Mark O’Prey, 44; Colin Gibson, 33; John McGarrigle, 57; Gary Arthur, 48; and Samuel McGhee, 56. The crew members were pilot David Traill, 51, and officers Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43.

The bodies have been released to the families and Police Scotland said arrangements were being made for the funerals.

It is understood Mr O’Prey’s funeral will take place in East Kilbride on Monday and that of PC Collins will be on Arran on Tuesday.

The family of Mr O’Prey believes he died while trying to help others escape the pub. The 44-year-old was in the Clutha to watch one of his favourite bands, Esperanza.

His sister Louise said: “He’s a fantastic brother – we loved him so, so much. He’s an unbelievable character, one in a million. Mark was an adorable, lovable giant. He was always laughing and would do anything for anybody.”

Mr Jenkins’s family visited the scene yesterday to leave flowers, with one message reading: “Robert, there are no words to express the loss felt by everyone who knew you. You were such a gentleman.”

Mr Gibson was in the pub to celebrate a friend’s birthday. A former colleague said: “Colin Gibson was a cracker. The place is poorer for his loss but richer that we had him for a while.”

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The helicopter was owned and operated by Bond Air Services and leased to the Scottish Police Authority.

Bond has described Captain Traill as a “legend” and “the epitome of the consummate professional”. He was a former RAF pilot and instructor who served in both Gulf wars.