Clutha families call for black box recorders on all aircraft

RELATIVES of those killed in the Clutha helicopter crash have said they are “furious” over the publication of a report into the tragedy which has left them with more questions than answers due to the fact the aircraft was not fitted with a black box recorder.

The scene of the crash in November 2013. Picture: PA

After a wait of nearly two years, family members of the victims and survivors said they had been left angry at the lack of information in the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s investigation into the causes of the disaster, which claimed the lives of ten people and left many more injured.

Ahead of the report’s official publication today, they have called for black box flight recorders to be fitted in all passenger-carrying aircraft.

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The 102-page report is expected to highlight the fact that fuel switches from the reserve tank were off when they should have been turned on, meaning the engines were starved of fuel. But no details will be available about the helicopter’s altitude or rate of descent.

John McGarrigle junior said the report's findings had left him 'angry'. Picture: PA

Two groups of relatives took part in a three-hour briefings with investigators from the AAIB over the past two days. Some of those who attended the first meeting said that although the AAIB had done a thorough job in the circumstances, the lack of evidence over what caused the Eurocopter EC 135 police helicopter to crash through the roof of the Clutha Bar in Glasgow was hard to take.

John McGarrigle, who lost his father, also John, said: “Obviously I can’t mention the content, but I’m furious, I’m just absolutely furious. I think people [will] understand that when the report comes out on Friday.

“I’m left with even more questions. Flight data recorders should be fitted on all passenger-carrying aircraft, it should be mandatory. In the words of the investigation, the lack of a black box has and is severely hampering the investigation.”

Ian O’Prey, whose son Mark died in the bar, said after the AAIB briefing: “The pilot wasn’t at fault, that’s for certain. There were switches left on, or off, and the engine had fuel starvation, that’s basically it.

”My main question to them was [about] flight recorders. If they had flight recorders, it would have taken us a fraction of the time it has taken us.”

Anne-Marie Kennedy, who was working in the Clutha at the time of the crash on 29 November 2013, said: “I thought the AAIB were on the ball, they obviously carried out the investigation to the best of their abilities. It was all very informative and easy to understand, but my reaction to it is that I don’t feel any further forward than I did last night. I think I’ve built it up so that tonight would have been the night it would have make sense, but I feel that it doesn’t make sense. If anything, there’s more questions, unknowns and uncertainties.”

Jim Morris, an aviation law expert with Irwin Mitchell solicitors, also said the absence of a flight recorder meant the AAIB investigation’s scope was 

“Unfortunately, in my view, due to a lack of a requirement to fit a black box flight data recorder, we have almost more unanswered questions,” he explained.

“We still do not know why fuel did not reach the engines. The report goes into significant detail in its analysis but it is clear from what is said in the report that they can’t answer all the questions.”