8 dead in police helicopter crash onto Glasgow pub
Updated: 2013-12-01 02:31
8 dead in police helicopter crash onto Glasgow pubRescue workers examine the wreckage of a police helicopter, which crashed onto the roof of the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow, Scotland November 30, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]
GLASGOW - Scottish authorities raised the death toll to eight people Saturday in the crash of a police helicopter into a crowded Glasgow pub, stressing that a rescue and recovery operation is ongoing and it is unclear what they will find when the aircraft's wreckage is moved.
The higher death toll was news that "everybody had been both dreading and expecting," Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
Chief Constable Stephen House said three of the dead were found in the helicopter, which was carrying two police officers and a civilian pilot when it crashed through the roof of The Clutha pub late Friday.
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 14 people remain hospitalized with serious injuries.
House wouldn't say if more people are believed to be inside the pub, explaining that the helicopter is still "dominating the whole space" in the one-story building and that until the wreckage is cleared "we won't know what is going on" underneath.
The Clutha pub, near the banks of the River Clyde, was packed Friday night and a ska band was in full swing when the chopper slammed through the roof.
Police said there were "well over" 100 people inside the bar at the time of the crash, listening to the music stylings of local ska band Esperanza on the eve of St. Andrew's Day, Scotland's official national holiday.
"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 leader Alex Salmond said, later ordering that flags outside government buildings be flown at half-staff.
Queen Elizabeth II said her thoughts and prayers were with the victims, while Prime Minister David Cameron offered to support the Scottish government "in any way" and praised emergency services plus "the bravery of ordinary Glaswegians" who rushed to help.
It was not 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 say or speculate on why the Eurocopter EC135 T2 helicopter came down on the pub's roof, close to a helipad on the riverbank.
Specialist teams worked throughout through the night and day on the rescue and recovery effort, with police saying the scene was extremely dangerous because the building was unstable.
"We are dealing with a very sensitive investigation and operation here," House said. "It will go on for many days yet."
Search and rescue dogs were on the scene for much of Saturday, more than 100 firefighters participated in the rescue effort and crews trained in shoring up unstable building, excavating and seeking out casualties aided in the huge operation.
With the scene cordoned off, groups of people huddled around police tape, some visibly upset and crying. A blue tarpaulin had been spread on the roof of the Clutha bar, but for much of the day the shapes of the blades and mangled fuselage were clearly visible from the street.
John McGarrigle, 38, said that he believed his 59-year-old father, also named John, had died in the crash.