Glasgow & West Scotland

Clutha helicopter crash survivors remember the tragedy

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Media captionCalum Grierson, Aitken Hunter, John Robson, Ian Kelly and Danny Docherty have been talking about the night of the crash

A tight-knit group of friends who met regularly in Glasgow's Clutha bar have spoken publicly about the helicopter crash which killed 10 people.

John Robson, Calum Grierson, Ian Kelly, Danny Docherty and Aitken Hunter spoke four months to the day since the Police Scotland helicopter crashed on the pub.

The group met there on the last Friday of every month, along with friend Joe Cusker, who was fatally injured.

A memorial service will be held in Glasgow on Saturday.

The Police Scotland Eurocopter EC 135 came down on the Clutha bar at about 22:25 on Friday 29 November.

The crash claimed the lives of all three people on board and seven others who were in the pub.

John Robson, Calum Grierson, Ian Kelly, Danny Docherty and Aitken Hunter spoke to BBC Scotland's Aileen Clarke about that tragic night.

'Sobering thought'

Mr Robson said the group were late getting into the Clutha and the corner they usually stood at was occupied, so, they ended up near the door.

"If we had been in the other corner, we would have all walked out," he said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption A total of 10 people died in the Clutha crash

Mr Robson said they had since been back at the crash site and could not believe there was eight of them standing near the door.

"When they showed us what stopped the helicopter - it stopped it coming right in on top of us," he said. "It's a sobering thought."

'Big bang'

Mr Robson said that his friend Joe Cusker, who died in hospital two weeks after the crash, was standing next to him.

"I turned away from him to talk to Calum and then it just went black. Big bang."

Mr Robson remembered the extreme confusion in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

"I was wandering about in a daze," he said. "I thought a bomb had went off."

"I was saying to myself, 'who would bomb the Clutha', then I thought 'hold on a minute, I'm alive, I better get out of here'."

Mr Robson said that he could not move as he was pinned down by his friend Calum.

'Horrendous noise'

"Alan got him off and there was a board across me that was lifted and I was able to move myself back towards the door, because I could see the light of the door."

Mr Robson said that when he got outside he could not believe it when someone told him a helicopter "had hit the pub" until he saw the rotor blade on the roof.

Image caption (Top: left to right) David Traill; Pc Kirsty Nelis; Pc Tony Collins; Gary Arthur; Samuel McGhee (Bottom: left to right) Colin Gibson; Robert Jenkins; Mark O'Prey; John McGarrigle; Joe Cusker

Another of the group, Mr Grierson, said that basically "the roof just came in".

"You couldn't say that was happening because there was just this horrendous noise and it went black," he said.

"There was dust everywhere and there was tremendous heat and the next thing we knew we were trapped, lying on our backs and we couldn't move our legs."

Mr Grierson said that as he lay there, he looked to his left but could not see any detail of the inside of the pub.

"It was just as if a wooden wall had been erected where we were standing."

Another of the group, Mr Kelly, said that what had been a "bright, vibrant scene, suddenly became dark".

He said: "Your brain could not take in the calamity that had taken place. We had no idea what had happened.

"All we knew is that our friends were standing there one minute, laughing and joking, and all of a sudden there was nothing."

'Distant voices'

Mr Kelly said all he could hear then was "moans and groans" and "distant voices".

He said they tried to account for Joe Cusker, who was his friend from school.

Another of the group, Mr Docherty, recalled seeing some smoke coming towards him inside the bar but presumed it was part of the band's set.

He remembers being thrown up in the air and "slammed down" before paramedics treating him explained that a helicopter had crashed.

Mr Docherty said that even after seeing the "rotor protruding from the roof" he struggled to take in what had happened.

"It was too surreal," he said.

Mr Docherty said everyone and their families had been deeply affected, both "physically and emotionally" by what had happened.

Friend's memorial

He said: "It's a tragedy for everybody and they are very much in our thoughts."

Mr Docherty also said the group planned to continue their traditional get together on the last Friday of the month.

"We want to make sure we keep this going for ourselves but as a memorial to Joe."

"No matter when we meet, we'll always have a wee toast to Joe."

Since the crash, the Air Accident Investigation Branch has said the helicopter suffered a double engine failure.

A report issued on 14 February said both engines "flamed out" but it did not pinpoint the cause. Some commentators have suggested a problem with the fuel supply.

On Saturday at 11:00, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia will lead the Clutha Helicopter Memorial Service at St Andrew's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow.