Chopper similar to that used by RCIPS
Scotland’s official holiday was transformed into a grim day of mourning Saturday as emergency crews searched the wreckage of a riverside pub smashed by a falling police helicopter. At least eight people died and more than a dozen remained hospitalized with serious injuries.
The Clutha, a popular Glasgow pub, was filled with revelers enjoying a local ska band on Friday night, the eve of St. Andrew’s Day, named for the patron saint of Scotland and which is normally a celebration of Scottish culture and heritage.
Instead, Scotland’s leader ordered flags at government buildings to be lowered to half-staff after the tragedy.
“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,” Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said.
Police said a rescue and recovery operation is ongoing and that it wasn’t clear what will be found once the aircraft’s wreckage is removed. The process may take days.
Helicopter similar to one used in Cayman
The police helicopter in the crash is a similar model to that used by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
The 1999 Eurocopter model operated by the RCIPS is a Eurocopter EC-135 T1. The T1 has Turbomeca 2B1A1 engines, according to the RCIPS, and the T2 used in Scotland has Turbomeca 2B2 engines, “but to the layman there is little difference,” the police clarified in a statement.
“The RCIPS joins with policing services throughout the world in sending condolences to all of those involved in the police helicopter crash in Glasgow,” an RCIPS police statement issued regarding the crash read.
Local police said they were in “direct contact” with the aircraft manufacturer and would be informed on the cause of Friday’s crash.
“This type of accident is extremely rare and this particular model of helicopter has an exceptional safety record,” the RCIPS statement read.
The helicopter used by the RCIPS was purchased in 2007 for $1.8 million from Thames Valley Police in the U.K. It arrived on island about two years later.
The 1999 Eurocopter has not had reports of any major safety problems since the RCIPS began using it in the spring of 2010.
Crashed into roof of pub
Witnesses said it seemed to fall straight down into the roof of the pub. The crash Friday at around 10:30 p.m. sent dozens of patrons fleeing through a cloud of dust. Witnesses spoke of people streaming out of the building covered in blood, with gashes and other injuries.
Ambulances rushed to the scene, taking the injured to nearby hospitals.
Local resident Paul Dundas, 26, said he heard a loud bang and looked out of his window to see a plume of dust rising above the pub.
“At first I thought it was a firework,” he said.
“People were covered in blood and dust. Other people were dragging them away from the bar and trying to get them out. Everyone was in shock, but people were helping and asking strangers if they were OK. I saw a couple help each other clean up their faces.”
Chief Constable Stephen House said three of the dead were found in the helicopter, which was carrying two police officers and a civilian pilot.
They “were our colleagues,” House said, bowing his head and taking a long pause and swallow.
He said the five other fatalities were found inside the building and that 14 people remained hospitalized with serious injuries.
House wouldn’t say if more people are believed to be inside the severely damaged pub. He said the helicopter is still “dominating the whole space” in the one-story building and that police won’t know the situation until the wreckage is cleared away.
It wasn’t immediately clear what the helicopter was doing in the area prior to the crash. Police and air safety investigators say it’s too early to speculate on why the Eurocopter EC135 T2 helicopter came down on the pub’s roof, close to a helipad on the bank of the River Clyde.
The twin-engine Eurocopter is widely used by police and ambulance services.
In 2007, a Eurocopter EC135 T2 crashed in southern England. The pilot and his wife were unhurt, but the aircraft was badly damaged. Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said there had been a failure of the autotrim system which maintains the aircraft’s position. The agency recommended changes to correct the problem.