Police helicopter plunges into Scottish pub

Three people have died after a police helicopter crashed into a busy pub in Glasgow, the BBC understands.

Police Scotland have confirmed one death but said they expected the final number of fatalities would be higher. A rescue operation is continuing.

The crash happened at The Clutha in Stockwell Street at 22:25 on Friday.

There were three people on board the helicopter – two officers and a civilian pilot. Thirty-two people have been taken to local hospitals.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond told a press conference it was a “black day for Scotland.”

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House confirmed that one person had died and further fatalities were expected after the helicopter crashed on to the roof of the pub.

He said they “can’t say definitively” whether there are people still trapped within the pub, and added “we are still in a search and recovery phase”.

The Police Scotland helicopter crashed onto the roof of the pub as a band was performing

Chief Constable House went on: “This is a very difficult and sensitive operation. The scene is, as you will understand, a particularly challenging one.

“Given the damage caused and the nature of the damage, it will take some time to complete the search of the building and to assess how we begin the investigation.

“Clearly the safety of those conducting the search is of the highest importance.”

Mr Salmond said: “This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland but it is also St Andrew’s Day and we can take pride in how we respond to adversity.

“The response from our emergency services and citizens has been exemplary.”

It has been reported that about 120 people were in the pub at the time of the crash. Many were rescued or escaped but others were trapped by a collapse on the left-hand side of the building.

Emergency services have erected barriers around the scene and specialist rescue teams remain at the scene.

  • A large area of the city centre has been cordoned off
  • A tarpaulin has been put up over roof of pub
  • Injured have been taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Western Infirmary and the Victoria Infirmary
  • Some of those who were in pub taken to a nearby Holiday Inn Express
  • Police Scotland Casualty Bureau number is 0800 092 0410 – for those concerned about relatives
  • Investigation into what happened is under way
  • Air Accident Investigation Branch is in Glasgow

Glasgow’s Health Board said it had put in place its “well-rehearsed major emergency arrangements” and that local hospitals had been on “immediate standby”.

Images of the crash showed the wreckage of a dark blue helicopter with a yellow “Police” insignia lying on the pub’s roof.

Jim Murphy MP tells the BBC that “something horrific and serious happened”

Speaking from the press conference at the multi-agency command centre in Glasgow, Fire Scotland deputy chief officer Alex Clark said: “Along with our emergency service colleagues, we responded very, very quickly and pulled out all the measures that we possibly could in order to rescue people who were affected by this incident.

“I can assure you that until such time as there is an inevitable outcome we will undoubtedly remain on site and carry on our rescue activities in the best way that we possibly can.”

Gary Hardacre, who is leading the Scottish Ambulance Service response, said: “All of our thoughts and condolences are with those that have been affected by this tragic incident.

“We have been working with our partners in the police and fire service to ensure a joined-up response, and provide the best possible care that we can for the people affected by this.”

Helicopter operator Bond Air Services said it was working with the police and emergency services.

A statement added: “Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic incident.”

Jim Murphy, the Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, was in the area at the time of the crash and said he ran into the pub to help before emergency services arrived.

He told the BBC there was “pandemonium” as people tried to get out of the pub.

“It was almost like slow motion,” he said, adding: “People just formed a bit of human chain, side by side with each other, to help pull injured people out.”

The shadow cabinet minister, who had blood on his shirt which he said was not his, described what he saw as a “horrific scene”.

Specialist firefighters were involved in the rescue operation at the scene

The band who were playing in the pub at the time of the crash, Esperanza, have released a statement on their Facebook page.

Bassist Jess wrote: “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.”

One of the yellow rotor tips from the helicopter remained visible on the roof of the pub

Eyewitness Fraser Gibson, 34, was inside the pub with his brother to see his former band, Esperanza.

“Midway through their set it sounded like a giant explosion,” he told BBC Scotland.

“Part of the room was covered in dust. We didn’t know what had happened. We froze for a second; there was panic and then people trying to get out the door.”

Mr Gibson added: “I would say there was maybe 120 people inside the pub. A lot of people managed to get out straight away, but it was hard to tell how many were actually trapped in the other half of the bar.

He said there had been no indication a helicopter had caused the devastation, adding: “The roof had just totally collapsed.

“There were shards of wood sticking out the top but nothing that said there had been a helicopter crash.”

Eddie Waltham, a former firefighter who had a friend inside the pub, told the BBC: “A roof joist came down and hit him and pushed him towards the window which is at the left side of the left door.”

He added later: “My own reaction was to run straight up to the pub.

“It was amazing to watch just how people were trying so hard to get into this building.”

John McGarrigle who said he feared his father had been in the pub at the time said: “I’ve checked every hospital and there’s no sign of him. I’m very anxious.

“I’m just going to stand here till I see casualties come out of the building.”

Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said his heart went out to the families affected.

He also praised the response of ordinary people in the area before the emergency services arrived.

He said: “People who were in the pub, the people who were in the streets and who just helped out their fellow human beings who were out having a good time.

“It’s Glasgow at its best you know, if people are in need the spontaneous response is to go to their help. And I want to pay great tribute to that and I’m very proud as leader of the city that that was the reaction. It doesn’t surprise me.”