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Thursday 31 July 2014

'He was a lovable giant' - Tributes paid to Glasgow helicopter crash victims as probe begins

Published 04/12/2013|13:23

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The wreckage of the police Eurocopter being lifted from the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow as experts are examining the helicopter which crashed into the crowded bar, killing nine people
The wreckage of the police Eurocopter being lifted from the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow as experts are examining the helicopter which crashed into the crowded bar, killing nine people

Tributes continue to be paid to those killed in the Glasgow helicopter crash, as accident investigators begin their work on the wreckage.

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Tragedy struck at the busy Clutha bar on Friday night when the police helicopter dropped "like a stone" on to the roof of the building.

Six people inside the pub and the three people in the helicopter died as a result of the crash, which happened at around 10.25pm.

The wreckage of the three-tonne Eurocopter was removed from the scene on Monday and taken by lorry to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch base in Farnborough, Hampshire, where it arrived last night.

Investigators have already stated that the helicopter pilot made no mayday call and no black box data recorder was on board. A preliminary report is expected within the next few days but the full findings are not expected for several months.

At the last update, 11 people injured in the crash were said to remain in hospitals across Glasgow.

The people in the bar who died were Robert Jenkins, 61; Mark O'Prey, 44; Colin Gibson, 33; John McGarrigle, 57; Gary Arthur, 48; and Samuel McGhee, 56. The crew members were pilot David Traill, 51, and officers Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43.

The bodies have been released to the families and Police Scotland said arrangements are being made for the funerals. It is understood Mr O'Prey's will take place in East Kilbride on Monday and the funeral of Pc Collins will be on Arran on Tuesday.

The family of Mr O'Prey described him as a "loveable giant" and they believe he died while trying to help others escape the pub.

The 44-year-old was in the Clutha to watch one of his favourite bands, Esperanza.

His sister Louise told the Evening Times newspaper: "He's a fantastic brother, we loved him so, so much. He's an unbelievable character, one in a million.

"Mark was an adorable, lovable giant. He was always laughing and would do anything for anybody."

Mr Jenkins's family visited the scene yesterday to leave flowers with one message reading: "Robert, there are no words to express the loss felt by everyone who knew you. You were such a gentleman."

Mr Gibson was in the pub on Friday to celebrate a friend's birthday. A former colleague told the Daily Record newspaper: "Colin Gibson was a cracker. The place is poorer for his loss but richer that we had him for a while."

The helicopter was owned and operated by Bond Air Services and leased to the Scottish Police Authority.

Bond has described Captain Traill as a "legend" and "the epitome of the consummate professional". He was a former RAF pilot and instructor who served in both Gulf wars.

"Dave Traill was an esteemed colleague, a legend amongst his peers and above all, everyone's friend. Never short of a witty comeback, it went hand in hand with his dry sense of humour. Taken from us too early, he leaves behind a legacy of love, kindness and friendship. We will miss him," Bond said in a statement.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Scotland have given details of how the crash will be investigated "to help inform grieving relatives of the next steps".

The AAIB investigation will "take precedence" because it is responsible for ensuring the safety of other aircraft. Police will continue to gather any evidence and COPFS is in charge of the overall investigation.

John Logue, procurator fiscal for the east of Scotland, told BBC Radio Scotland: "The responsibility of the procurator fiscal is to investigate all sudden and unexplained deaths, in particular in relation to incidents like this, with a view to determining at some point in the future whether there should be a criminal prosecution or a fatal accident inquiry.

"There is a lot of work to be done yet by a number of different organisations before any decision will be taken by the procurator fiscal as to whether there is to be a fatal accident inquiry.

"It is a high priority for us to keep the families of those who have died as well-informed as we can throughout the investigation."

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