Eurocopter plunges through roof of Clutha Vaults bar, with dozens taken to hospital and search continuing in wreckage
At least three people were feared dead and dozens were in hospital after a police helicopter crashed through the roof of a busy pub in the city centre of Glasgow as it was hosting a live music event.
A band was playing inside the Clutha Vaults bar when the Eurocopter EC135 T2 operated by Police Scotland came down just before 10.30pm. The aircraft had on board two police officers and a civilian pilot at the time. Eyewitnesses described badly injured people at the scene.
As Saturday morning broke in Glasgow, Scottish police said 32 people had been taken to hospitals across the city including the Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Western Infirmary. Rescue crews and medical teams were continuing to recover others from the scene.
Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, said on Twitter: “We must all prepare ourselves for the likelihood of fatalities. I can confirm that it is a police helicopter which has been involved in the tragic accident in Glasgow. Rescue efforts in full operation. Given an incident of this scale we must all prepare ourselves for the likelihood of fatalities.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “A major incident has been declared after the Eurocopter EC135 T2 – with a crew of three consisting of two police officers and a civilian pilot – came down on the roof of a pub in Stockwell Street at 10.25pm.
“Emergency services responded immediately and remain at the scene at the present time. Cordons have been put in place to allow the rescue operation to take place.”
In a briefing to media at the scene hours after the crash, Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said his officers were still treating the incident as a rescue operation. “We have dealt with numerous casualties ranging from walking wounded to people who have had to be assisted from the scene. Some have been treated at local hospitals. We are unable to confirm numbers at the moment.
“We have a crew in place working to stabilise the building and we’ve called on resources and colleagues from across Scotland including Dundee, Edinburgh and Falkirk. We have around 125 firefighters on the scene in total.”
Jim Murphy, a Labour frontbench MP who was driving by and stopped to help, said members of the public formed a human chain to get people out of the building.
“What I saw was a pile of people clambering out of the pub, dust everywhere. People were covered in multiple injuries.”
Wesley McEwan, 53, an electrician who was inside the bar at the time of the crash, said that in the moments after the helicopter came through the roof he could see two people inside the cockpit through the shattered windscreen, as well as injured people all around.
“I was in the bar having a few drinks and there was an explosion – it wasn’t an explosion but that’s what it sounded like. And we were completely stunned for about 20 seconds.”
McEwan said the helicopter came down between the bar and the stage. “I think there were about three people, I could see people trapped under it. They were unconscious. And all around bits of debris had flown. There were people bleeding everywhere.”
Grace MacLean, who was inside the pub at the time, told the BBC: “It was fairly busy. We were having a nice time and then there was just a whoosh noise. There was no bang, no explosion.
“We were all joking that the band had caused the roof to come down. They carried on playing at first.”
“Then it [the roof] started to come down and people were screaming. It’s a real testament to the people of Glasgow, people were saying: ‘there’s the door, come outside’. Then people started to come out with injuries and blood. It was only when the paramedics came out and said there’s a helicopter on top that I looked up and saw the metal.”
Wesley Shearer, a local man attending the gig tweeted a picture of the scene outside of the bar, adding: “This is unbelievable. Just spent 20 minutes pulling people out the bar. Apparently a helicopter crashed on the roof.”
Minutes earlier, Shearer had tweeted: “Holy fucking shit. The roof in the Clutha bar just collapsed mid gig. People have been caught under it, injuries + smoke everywhere.”
Gordon Smart, the editor of the Scottish Sun, told the BBC that he was on the sixth floor of a nearby multi-storey car park when he heard what sounded like a misfiring engine, before looking up and seeing the helicopter falling from the sky.
He added: “It was just such a surreal moment. It looked like it was dropping from a great height at a great speed. I’m about 80% sure that it was a police helicopter.
“There was no fire ball and I did not hear an explosion. It fell like a stone. The engine seemed to be spluttering.”
Photographs taken at the scene showed what appeared to be debris containing police markings, while other images showed wreckage with fluorescent markets that resembled a helicopter used by Strathclyde police’s airport unit.
Police quickly threw up a cordon in the streets surrounding the incident, which occurred metres from the riverside in a district close to Glasgow’s main shopping centre. Dozens of people who were caught up in the incident were later taken to a nearby Holiday Inn hotel.
According to their Facebook page and the Facebook page of the bar, a nine-piece Glasgow ska band called Esperanza were playing at the venue at the time of the incident.
Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick, delivering a prepared statement in the early hours of Saturday morning at the scene of the “terrible incident”, said crews had “responded so professionally in such difficult circumstances”.
“At 10.25pm yesterday evening the Police Scotland helicopter – a Eurocopter EC135 T2 – came down on the roof of the Clutha Vaults pub in Stockwell Street, Glasgow.
“There were three people on board – two police officers and a civilian pilot. There were a number of customers inside the bar at the time.
“We are co-ordinating the operation with colleagues from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Ambulance Service, who are working to make the scene safe and recover people from the scene.
“That rescue operation is clearly ongoing. It is too early at this stage to provide any details around why the helicopter came down.
“A full investigation has already begun and this is being carried out jointly between Police Scotland and the Air Accident Investigation Branch, under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
“Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the Scottish Ambulance Service are currently fully engaged in the operation.
“Specialist teams from fire and ambulance services are on the scene. Work is ongoing to make the building safe.
“We are also working closely with partners in the local health service and local authority.”
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