Eight people are dead and 14 remain seriously injured in hospital after a helicopter crashed into a Glasgow pub. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond calls the accident a “black day for Scotland”.
The death toll following the fatal crash has risen to eight, with many still missing, Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House confirmed on Saturday.
Three of those who died were inside the helicopter – two police officers and one civilian pilot – while the other five were in the pub building when the roof caved in.
Around 100 people were inside the Clutha bar on the banks of the River Clyde when a helicopter crashed through the roof at 10.25pm on Friday night.
A major incident has been declared and firefighters say they have been able to communicate with those still trapped inside the building.
This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland but it’s also St Andrew’s Day, and it’s a day we can take pride and courage in how we respond to adversity and tragedy. Alex Salmond
Thirty-two people were taken to hospital immediately after the crash, and 14 remain seriously ill in hospital, Constable House confirmed.
“We are working alongside our emergency services colleagues in the ongoing rescue operation,” said Police Constable House. “We are dealing with a very sensitive and complex operation and we expect that emergency services will be at the scene for some time. We would thank the public for their co-operation as our officers and other emergency service colleagues.”
The helicopter dropped “like a stone” from the sky, according to witnesses, landing in the pub in Stockwell Street.
Constable House initially said there was one fatality, but the death toll rose to eight later on Saturday.
The police helipad is approximately a mile away down the river, at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). “The helicopters come over us all the time,” a resident told Channel 4 News.
“There would have been at least 100 people inside the pub at that time. It’s a young person’s venue where bands play,” said Lucy Trend.
Waking up and realising that it is all definitely horribly real. Esperanza
The roof at the Clutha “caved in with a whoosh” according to witnesses.
Members of the group on stage at the time, Esperanza, have posted a message to fans on Facebook: “Waking up and realising that it is all definitely horribly real. Despite the situation everyone was so helpful and caring of each other. The police, ambulances, firefighters all did a stellar job and continue to do so today in extremely difficult conditions.”
Speaking at the scene, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been bereaved. It is impossible to imagine the grief and loss they are experiencing, but they should know that the thoughts and prayers of everyone across this city, and across Scotland, are with them at this unimaginably difficult time”.
Police confirmed the aircraft involved was a Eurocopter EC135 T2 with two police officers and a civilian pilot on board.
A statement from Eurocopter said: “Eurocopter confirms that an EC135 T2 operated by the Scottish police force was involved in an accident on November 29, 2013 in Glasgow’s city center, with a crew of three consisting of two police officers and one pilot.
“Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, and the teams and individuals involved in the rescue operations. Eurocopter experts are on standby to support the investigation in every way possible. No further details are available at this stage.”
Mr Salmond visited the incident command centre in Glasgow on Saturday morning, and said the accident was a “black day for Glasgow and Scotland”.
He said: “This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland but it’s also St Andrew’s Day, and it’s a day we can take pride and courage in how we respond to adversity and tragedy.
“That response from our emergency services and from ordinary citizens has been exemplary. As first minister, it’s a day we can take great pride in how we’ve responded to this extraordinary tragedy.”
He has also announced that flags will fly at half mast across Scotland as a mark of respect to the victims.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has called the accident an “unimaginable horror” and said his thoughts are with the families of those whose loved ones are unaccounted for.
Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed “deepest sympathies” with the families and friends who lost a loved one in the Glasgow helicopter crash and he thanked the emergency services who “worked tirelessly” throughout the night.
He also paid tribute to the bravery of “the ordinary Glaswegians who rushed to help”.
Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay, of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters had made contact with people trapped but it was difficult to tell how many were inside as the building was “very unsafe”.
“We’ve had some contact and we’re working away just now to make sure that the building is safe in order to get people out,” he said. “We are determined that we are going to get the building stable and we will be in there to carry out those rescues.”
A number of casualties had been removed earlier on with a range of injuries, and had been taken to hospital and other locations, he added.
The “methodical” search and rescue operation involves 125 firefighters including crews trained in shoring up unstable buildings, excavating into collapsed structures and seeking and identifying casualties using specialist equipment.
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: “That rescue operation is clearly ongoing. It is too early at this stage to provide any details around why the helicopter came down. I can confirm there are a number of casualties but it is too early at this stage to provide further details.”
One witness, who was outside the pub when the helicopter hit, described how there was a loud bang and plume of smoke suddenly came towards him, and then people began screaming.
He said it was difficult to see anything into the pub because the ceiling had come down. “There was a lot of people in there,” he said.
Another witness, Icelandic tourist Steinthor Asgeirsson who was staying in a Holiday Inn over the road from the Clutha pub, described to Channel 4 News how he was woken by a crash.
He said: “I woke up with a crash and I heard some screaming and then I went to the window and basically just saw a lot of smoke over the pub. But then the smoke cleared and it was quite obious something had happened becvause the roof appeared to be open.”
— Cordelia Lynch (@CordeliaLynchTV) November 30, 2013
— Cordelia Lynch (@CordeliaLynchTV) November 30, 2013
— Andrew Arnott (@AndrewA65) November 30, 2013
Firefighters from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are continuing rescue efforts at #Clutha. Includes specialist urban search and rescue.
— Scottish Fire – West (@scotfire_west) November 30, 2013
Rescue efforts in full operation. Given an incident of this scale we must all prepare ourselves for the likelihood of fatalities #Clutha
— FM Alex Salmond (@AlexSalmond) November 30, 2013
Labour’s international development spokesman Jim Murphy MP said he saw people “clambering out” of the bar as he was driving past and jumped out to help. He said: “There were people with injuries. Bad gashes to the head. Some were unconscious. I don’t know how many.
“The helicopter was inside the pub. It’s a mess. I could only get a yard or two inside. I helped carry people out.”
The first minister added: “Our thoughts are with everyone involved with the incident in Glasgow,” he said.
“However given an incident of this scale we must all prepare ourselves for the likelihood of fatalities.”
A large section of the city centre was cordoned off with all roads leading to the junction of Clyde Street, Stockwell Street, Bridgegate and the Victoria Bridge closed.
Police have set up a telephone number for members of the public who are concerned about relatives. It is 0800 092 0410.