Three feared dead after police helicopter crashes into a pub in Glasgow
Three people are feared dead after a police helicopter last night plunged into a famed Glasgow pub on the banks of the Clyde. The crash left dozens injured as drinkers formed a human chain to drag unconscious people from the building.
This morning a major rescue operation is underway in the Clutha bar, as firemen battle to free people who are trapped inside.
A number of casualties have been taken to hospital but others remain trapped inside a Glasgow pub after a police helicopter came down on its roof, officials said.
The helicopter came down on the roof of the Clutha bar, on the banks of the Clyde, at 10.25pm yesterday evening.
A major incident has been declared and First Minister Alex Salmond has warned that "we must all prepare ourselves for the likelihood of fatalities".
Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay, of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said it was difficult to tell how many people were trapped inside.
"It's a case of working hard within the building to try and determine how many casualties are there," he told reporters.
"We are determined that we are going to get the building stable and we will be in there to carry out those rescues."
He added: "There was a number of casualties removed earlier on at the start of the incident.
"They have been taken to hospital and other locations."
The crash happened at the Clutha Vaults in Stockwell Street, a well known music venue named after a New Zealand river.
The crash police helicopter could be clearly seen balanced precariously on the roof of the wrecked pub with some smoke visible.
Police Scotland said a crew of two police officers and a civilian pilot were on board the helicopter, but added the force was "not in a position to confirm any details regarding injuries".
Witnesses described the helicopter "dropping from a great height at a great speed... like a stone".
Mr Ramsay added: "Our officers are working very hard in what is a very complex and hard environment for them tonight.
"We are in the process at the moment of making the building stable, it's very unsafe.
"We've had some contact and we're working away just now to make sure that the building is safe in order to get people out."
There are 125 firefighters at the scene, some of whom had been working in the cellar of the bar and on its roof, Mr Ramsay said.
Numerous casualties had been removed with injuries he said were "consistent with this type of incident".
"There was a range of casualties from casualties who were able to walk and others who required assistance from the fire service and ambulance service at the scene."
He said the search and rescue operation was proceeding in a "methodical" way using crews trained in shoring up unstable buildings, excavating into collapsed structures and seeking and identifying casualties using specialist equipment.
"The building is unstable, our crews are trained to provide added stability and they're doing that at this moment in time," he said.
The operation was drawing on resources from across Scotland with crews and equipment from Dundee, Falkirk and Edinburgh involved.
Mr Ramsay praised the firefighters who are working hard at the scene.
"Without any thought to their own safety they have entered these premises to carry out a number of rescues, make contact with casualties and work in that environment for as long as it lasts.
"As long as there are rescues to be conducted we will be here to do that. We're here for as long as it takes."
Scotland’s shadow development secretary Jim Murphy said there had been multiple injuries and reported a “pile of people” clambering out of a pub.
Monsignor Christopher McElroy, of St Andrew's Metropolitan Cathedral, told the Independent.ie:" The pub is within our parish and I went there to offer my help but I was turned back. I haven't heard what casualties there are. It's a popular pub with bands playing at the weekend.
"It doesn't have any direct Irish connections as there are other pubs more popular with the Irish in the area," Mons McElroy said.
Eyewitness Fraser Gibson (34) was inside the Clutha pub with his brother to see his former band, Esperanza.
“Midway through their set it sounded like a giant explosion,” he told BBC Scotland.
“Part of the room was covered in dust. We didn't know what had happened. We froze for a second; there was panic and then people trying to get out the door.”
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “I can confirm that we have people at the scene.
“It is obviously a major incident. There are numerous fire engines there; 15 fire engines at the moment along with specialist services.”
Grace MacLean, who was inside the pub at the time of the crash, told BBC News: "There was a ska band on in the pub just at the back and it was fairly busy.
"We were all just having a nice time and then there was like a 'whoosh' noise - there was no bang, there was no explosion - and then there was some smoke, what seemed like smoke. The band were laughing and we were all joking that the band had made the roof come down.
"They carried on playing and then it started to come down more and someone started screaming and then the whole pub just filled with dust. You couldn't see anything, you couldn't breathe.
"It was a real testament to the people of Glasgow, everyone in that pub was shouting 'here's the door', they were helping each other out."
A message on the band's Facebook page read: "Thanks for all the messages. I've just spoken to Jake and Jason. It seems that the band are all OK. Not so sure about everyone else."
Claire Morris, who lives near the bar, said: “We heard this bang. We didn't really know what had happened and then we heard people coming out and screaming.
“I wasn't sure whether there had been an explosion. My daughter said to me it was a helicopter that had hit the roof.
“Police are everywhere. We are just very shaken.”
She added the pub was very popular and would have been busy on a Friday night.
Mr Murphy said there were about 40 fire brigade staff at the scene and said passersby had helped at the scene.
Mr Murphy told the BBC: “It's a well established Glasgow pub. It's a horrible, horrible scene, but well done to the folk who were here. Everyone formed a chain of people from inside the pub to outside, and the fire brigade and everyone were here very quickly.”
"I jumped out and tried to help. There were people with injuries. Bad gashes to the head. Some were unconscious. I don't know how many.
"The helicopter was inside the pub. It's a mess. I could only get a yard or two inside. I helped carry people out."
He went on: "My human instinct kicked in. I didn't like what I was seeing but I did what everyone else was doing and got stuck in. I feel like I'm in shock now. It's a horrible scene." British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted:" My thoughts are with everyone affected by the helicopter crash in Glasgow - and the emergency services working tonight."