Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow helicopter crash: Clutha bar building 'hampered recovery work'

Clutha crash scene
Image caption The recovery operation was hampered by the building's three roof structures and thick walls, according to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

The recovery operation at the Glasgow pub where a helicopter crashed was hampered by the building's design, according to a senior fire officer.

Nine people are confirmed to have died when the police helicopter crash-landed on the Clutha Vaults on Friday night.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief officer David Goodhew said the pub was once a three or four-storey building and so had particularly thick walls and three roof structures.

He said this made recovery "complex".

At least two families had criticised the length of time it had taken rescuers to remove the bodies of victims.

The ninth victim's body was brought out just after noon.

Former tenement

Mr Goodhew said: "Part of the reason it has been so difficult for emergency services to undertake the rescue is that this particular premises used to be a tenemented building.

"It was three or four storeys high, so actually the walls you see are not nine inches thick, they are almost a metre thick at the bottom.

"Therefore the walls are substantial and they are made of sandstone and where you see a roof, that's actually the third roof covering."

Mr Goodhew said rescuers had to contend with large amounts of rubble inside the building, caused by the collapse of three roof structures and walls inside the pub.

Rescuers had also been working in very confined spaces with the danger of potential further collapse, he said.

Mr Goodhew said that to attempt to remove the "substantial" front wall of the pub would have caused the further collapse of the building on to some of the casualties trapped inside.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service brought heavy equipment to the crash scene on Sunday and secured the three-tonne helicopter to prevent it sinking further into the building.

Preserve scene

Police Scotland's Dep Ch Con Rose Fitzpatrick said the process also had to be slow to preserve the scene, which would be the subject of an investigation.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch, who lifted the helicopter from the crash scene at 10:10, had also been attempting to preserve the evidence by removing the aircraft wreckage in once piece.

The family of Mark O'Prey, who fear he may be one of the victims, expressed frustration at the time it had taken to remove the wreckage.

His father Ian and sister Louise spent much of Sunday at the crash site waiting for news.

Ms O'Prey said during the wait, they had been told very little.

"We do have a liaison officer who's in regular contact with us, but with no information," she said.

Mr O'Prey said: "I thought if they'd made a better attempt on the Saturday night, I thought they perhaps could have got them out a lot earlier than they did but I think they were more concerned about this helicopter."

Mark's aunt, Cilla Hanson, said the family had spoken to the press out of frustration.

"We asked could somebody from the fire department or the rescue operation to let us know the technicalities and the logistics as to why we're not getting bodies out.

"We were told it wasn't possible."

She said that an hour after speaking to the press, the fire officer came on camera to speak.

Ms Hanson said: "That's all we wanted earlier on in the day, was for someone with concrete information to speak to the families, to let us know what was happening, and it wasn't forthcoming."

Dep Ch Con Rose Fitzpatrick said: "The uncertainty for the families of those who have died is at the front of our minds," she said.

"It remains our absolute priority to give clarity to those affected as soon as we are able.

"The loss of so many people has been deeply felt."

Mr Goodhew said it was anticipated that the search for bodies would be concluded within the next few hours.

"Of course we are hoping that there is no-one else in there but before we actually confirm it we need to be doubly, doubly sure that there's nobody in there," he said.

The pub had been packed with more than 100 people when the accident happened at 22:25 on Friday.

A total of 32 people were taken to hospitals across the city, with 12 patients remaining in hospital.