Police helicopter crash inquiry hears emotional tributes from victims’ families

Moving tributes from relatives of the victims of a police helicopter crash have been heard on the first day of a fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

The pilot, two crew members and seven customers in the Clutha bar in Glasgow were killed when the Police Scotland aircraft crashed on to the roof of the building on November 29 2013.

A minute’s silence was held at the start of an FAI on Monday morning in memory of those who died.

The inquiry before Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull is taking place in a temporary court at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

Pub customers Mark O’Prey, Gary Arthur, John McGarrigle, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, Samuel McGhee and Joe Cusker died, while pilot David Traill and crew Tony Collins and Kirsty Nelis were also killed in the crash.

Glasgow helicopter crash
The wreckage of the helicopter was lifted clear following the crash (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Personal statements about some of those who died were read out in tribute to them.

A tribute was read for victim Robert Jenkins, which told of the pain his partner Mary Kavanagh had suffered after being at the pub on the fateful night.

It said: “They had only been in the bar for 40 minutes when tragedy struck.

“All Mary Kavanagh wants to know is why she went in that bar with the man she was t spend the rest of her life with and came out alone.”

Kerry McGhee described her father Samuel McGhee as a hard worker who was “very sociable” with “many friends”.

A statement from Colin Gibson’s family said: “If you were lucky enough to meet him, you knew you had as he left a lasting impression on you.”

The sisters of Gary Arthur told the inquiry in a statement: “Nothing will ever bring our brother back but hopefully we will finally be given the chance to find closure.

“We want to remember Gary as a much-loved person and not just a victim of the Clutha.”

Mark O’ Prey’s father, Ian, described his son as “wonderful” who died at a venue the whole family would frequent.

He added: “I had three children, now I only have two daughters.

“He was a wonderful son who loved life and lived it to the full.

“I only hope this hearing arrives at some truth and I wish it well.”

The first person to give evidence was witness Andrew Bergin.

The 30-year-old solicitor from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, told how he was walking by the riverside on the night in question.

He said of the helicopter: “It made what I can only describe as a spluttering noise. It wasn’t any lower than I would have seen it before.

“It seemed to immediately lose height as soon as the spluttering occurred.

“Everything happened more or less at the same time.”

Brian Stewart, 50, was on Dyer’s Lane when his attention was drawn to the helicopter.

The electric production operator from Glasgow said: “I had heard a noise coming from it. It was kind of like when you stall your car when you have it in the wrong gear and it struggles, kind of like that.

“The engine started cutting. It happened a couple of times then it fell behind the building in front of me on Turnbull Street.

“That’s where I last seen it.”

Ernest Doherty had finished work walking along Buchanan Street when a sound from above grabbed his attention.

He was the final eye witnesses to give evidence to the inquiry.

The 64-year-old from South Lanarkshire said: “It it made a sound like an old car trying to start, but trying to start 1,000 times louder.

“As I looked up above the buildings of the Briggait I saw the helicopter come down passing the church.”

Hampden Park
The inquiry is taking place at Hampden Park in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The purpose of the FAI is to determine the cause of the deaths, establish whether they could have been prevented and enable the sheriff to make recommendations that could prevent fatalities in similar circumstances.

More than 100 people were at the Clutha Vaults pub when the helicopter, returning to its base on the banks of the River Clyde, crashed through the roof.

An Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) report published in 2015 found two fuel supply switches were off and the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning in the cockpit.

The Crown Office has previously said there is insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings.

A total of 57 Crown witnesses are expected to give evidence to the inquiry, down from a previous estimate of 85.

It continues on Tuesday.

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