The Crash That Shook Scotland – 2013 Glasgow Helicopter Crash – BBC Documentary

Samantha Poling:
Now, on BBC One Scotland, in a change to the schedule, BBC One Scotland investigates a tragedy that has both devastated and united a nation. The crash that shook Scotland contains scenes, which some viewers may find upsetting.

Samantha Poling:
Families, friends, a city, a nation, united in grief.

Laurence W.:
Speaks of God’s mercy and goodness.

Samantha Poling:
On Friday night, a terrible tragedy struck The Clutha Bar, in Glasgow City Center. Since then, while emergency services have battled to first rescue and then recover the victims, Scotland has been in shock, in mourning. Tonight, we look at the last 72 hours, which have both devastated and united a nation.

Samantha Poling:
A Friday, at the end of the month, for many, it’s payday. Christmas is less than a month away. The festivities, together with the start of the St. Andrew’s Day weekend, mean Friday’s a busier night than usual, in the city.

Samantha Poling:
The Clutha Bar, on Stockwell Street, has been a Glasgow landmark for almost 200 years. A traditional pub, it’s played host over the years to bands and musicians, such as Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly. On Friday night, ska band, Esperanza, are playing. Bar owner, Saverio Petri, is expecting a busy night.

Saverio Petri:
Esperanza do have a large following in Glasgow, and obviously, I was just looking forward to seeing what was going to happen.

Samantha Poling:
Brothers, Michael and Billy, are looking forward to going.

Michael Byrne:
I check the [inaudible 00:02:18] seeing if Esperanza what playing the Clutha on Friday evening. I’m [inaudible 00:02:22] with the manager and a couple of people and he also liked them.

Billy Byrne:
Thought that’d be good. We’ve seen them before. They [inaudible 00:02:28], they’re a ska band. It was great, it was so yeah that’s good thing.

Michael Byrne:
So I contacted Bali asking them for the like to go be up on the afternoon and end up in the closet to see Esperanza on three tonight.

Michael Byrne:
9:45 the band came on, was great. People cheerin’ and so on; the music was fantastic. A really good live band, really good atmosphere in the pub.

Samantha Poling:
On the other side of Glasgow a police helicopter call sign Sierra Papa Nine Nine has been on shift.

Samantha Poling:
It’s based at police Scotland’s air support unit on the north side of the River Clyde, which has served the whole of Scotland for 11 years.

Samantha Poling:
A familiar sight above the city streets, this EC135 model is a favorite of emergency services worldwide.

Samantha Poling:
The helicopters exact flight path on Friday is still unknown, but what is known is that just after 10 o’clock, Sierra Papa Nine Nine is flying over the merchant city area of Glasgow.

Samantha Poling:
According to one witness who’s on the roof of a nearby car park, all does not seem well.

Gordon Smart:
It was totally unusual for me to be in the car park. I mean, I got to the 6th floor, I came out and heard a really loud, terrifying mechanical noise, like the sound of a car misfiring but a hundred times louder. The splatter or the gurgle of an engine and I looked above me and found myself covered and down because I felt like it was directly above me. It looked above me, behind me, and then straight in front of me and I could see 11 o’clock, that kind of direction, a helicopter.

Samantha Poling:
But the revelers in the Clutha bar below remain oblivious to what’s going on.

Samantha Poling:
The band Esperanza, is in full swing.

Saverio Petri:
The band were just coming up to having a break. The pub was as busy as the pub gets.

Gordon Smart:
At the time I remember saying, “Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, there’s a helicopter coming straight for me.”

Gordon Smart:
And it was only the following day, when spoke to my colleague, when he recounted exactly what I’d said. I had said to him that, “There’s a helicopter about to crash into the car park. I’ve got to go.” And I hung up and watched this terrible fall the helicopter tumbling nose over tail and then it fell beyond the residential flats just in front of me and that was the last I saw of it.

Samantha Poling:
Those in the bar below, are seconds away from becoming part disaster which will shock the world.

Brendan Riordan:
I was at the pub tonight with four mates of mine and one of my friends went outside for a fag break, so I joined them.

Speaker 8:
There was a ska band on and the pub, just at the back, and we’re all just … it was fairly busy. We were all just havin’ a nice time and then there was like a “whoosh” noise.

Speaker 9:
I heard a misfiring engine. Looked above me, couldn’t work out where it was coming from, and it got louder and louder. And spotted a helicopter falling from the sky.

Samantha Poling:
Within seconds, news begins spreading on social media.

Brendan Riordan:
Suddenly, I heard this, this bang, very loud bang.

Speaker 8:
There is some smoke, what seemed like smoke, so the band’s relaxing and we’re all joking that the band made the roof come down and you know that … finally carried on playing.

Brendan Riordan:
At first I thought, the speakers have possibly blown, but then I looked around and this cloud of dust suddenly took over the whole pub.

Speaker 8:
Someone started screaming and then the whole pub just filled with dust, like you couldn’t you couldn’t see anything.

Brendan Riordan:
The ceiling had fallen on to the bar, or the central bit of the pub, that’s when I realized things were serious.

Speaker 8:
You couldn’t breathe every time you took a breath, you’re kind of caught in your mouth.

Saverio Petri:
I saw what appeared to be a flash. There was a loud noise.

Michael Byrne:
I hear a crash. I hear a bang. An indescribable noise. My first instinct was to think it was almost like a door slamming but obviously was louder than that.

Saverio Petri:
And … The pub was plunged into darkness, rubble started falling.

Billy Byrne:
Sort of bit of silence.

Michael Byrne:
I turn to my left hand side and see that the ceiling had pretty much collapsed on to the bar of the pub. A split second later, I turn back around and it seemed that the band were still playing, but this was a matter of microseconds.

Saverio Petri:
The band obviously realized something had happened. The … one of the singers said, “I told you we bring the roof down in this place tonight.” Obviously, completely unaware of what happened.

Billy Byrne:
The whole ceiling, on the left hand side of the bar where it had been, collapsed in on itself and gantry of the bar also collapsed in on itself.

Billy Byrne:
It was an unnatural bout of screaming.

Saverio Petri:
I was hit by some flying debris, which knocked me down behind the bar. At this point this … there was debris falling all around me.

Billy Byrne:
There was a huge ball of dust, there somehow … To me it seemed as if, that helped with seeing what was going on.

Michael Byrne:
When I looked over to the left hand side of the pub, it’s almost as if it wasn’t there. There was no left hand side to the pub, pretty much from the middle of the bar to the … I couldn’t see anything past the middle of the bar. There was just debris and it was carnage.

Billy Byrne:
I went, sure was other people was well, absolutely standing there and opened the doors.

Michael Byrne:
So, I turned around. As I approached the door, I was perhaps maybe only 10 feet from the door. I could see that my brother was standing at the door.

Billy Byrne:
Where I was holding the door, I’d seen my brother.

Michael Byrne:
We’re getting people out. Just you know, saying people, “It’ll be okay. Everythings gonna be fine.” Because, I thought it was.

Michael Byrne:
At that point in time I didn’t know what something happened, just thought it that if it came in. It was getting more and more dusty than what people that came out.

Michael Byrne:
And then when the last person came out, I stepped inside to look and see if there were anyone still around. I can’t recall if I was shouting, seeing if everyone okay. I don’t recall that, but it was quiet. I remember it being quiet.

Michael Byrne:
I stepped inside and it’s fairly dusty, but I could still see my way around. I can see that the bar had collapsed and I looked over to my right hand side, to where we were standing and people were in that area, and I could couldn’t see anyone.

Michael Byrne:
So [inaudible 00:09:22] was satisfied that everyone in the area that we were in, had vacated the [inaudible 00:09:27] that was safe and then turned ’round.

Jim Murphy MP:
He knew it was something really serious. I mean, something obviously, you know, horrific and serious had happened.

Speaker 11:
I could see people come out of the pub covered in blood and covered in dust.

Michael Byrne:
Seen two chaps laying on the floor, laying on the ground, and the construction of the bar had … kind of placed over them from the waist down. And they’re both chaps were lying there.

Michael Byrne:
The chap nearest me, was lying with his eyes wide open, he’s arms kinda stretched like that, and … I thought to him, he passed away; they look like mannequins and I feared the worst for them.

Michael Byrne:
So, I turned ’round and my brother was there and shouted for some help. There was another chap, who I don’t know, and they helped and rushed in over to the gantry part of the bar, or some kind of structure that seemed to be on top of the chaps.

Michael Byrne:
So we lift it up, without any thoughts or hesitations. It was just, “This is what we need to do. This you know, and we can do it.”

Michael Byrne:
I couldn’t tell you how heavy it was. I have no recollection. We just lifted the structure up and shouted for somebody to help and they dragged the champ out.

Billy Byrne:
I think that person was conscious. The person was moaning, so he was conscious.

Michael Byrne:
And I held the [inaudible 00:11:05] moan and that was fantastic. I was relieved, then I thought chaps still alive. That’s great.

Jim Murphy MP:
People just formed a little bit of a human chain, side by side with each other, to help pull injured people out and we’d just pass one person … just pass the person from one another to each other.

Billy Byrne:
There was a second person under … that person doesn’t look like to me, certainly didn’t look conscious. He was more … He was face down.

Michael Byrne:
Lifted the structure up and someone came in and dragged the chap away. I have no idea who it was. I don’t who they were. I don’t even remember what the person looked like or anything like that.

Michael Byrne:
And then the second person was taken out.

Samantha Poling:
That person may well have been one of the fatalities, you don’t know.

Michael Byrne:
I don’t know, no, but I wouldn’t like think that it was.

Michael Byrne:
I wouldn’t like to think it was ’cause that would be … difficult. It’d be very difficult

Jim Murphy MP:
I was in the immediate vicinity of the edge of the pub. Probably about ten people, half of them struggling to be conscious or unconscious, and the other four or five, with varying degrees of wounds or injuries. It’s really hard … it’s hard to recollect exactly because there was so much dust and just a determination to do the kind of human thing until the emergency services got here.

Speaker 12:
Jim, there’s blood on your shirt.

Jim Murphy MP:
Yeah … it’s not me.

Samantha Poling:
Trapped in the pub, sisters Nancy and Ann, fear for their lives.

Nacy Primrose:
I thought I was gonna die. I thought, “My sister. Where’s my sister? I’m getting killed.” and then I remember I’m screaming for my sister ’cause I thought she was dead.

Ann Faulds:
I just thought, “My sister’s dead. She’s- she’s not gonna make it. She’s not gonna get out of there.” I think at one point, I started to cuddle a guy, George, in front of me and I think at that point I’d asked him his name and I says, “What’s your name?”

Ann Faulds:
Then he says, “George.”

Ann Faulds:
I says, “George, I’m Ann.” And I says to him, “I’m really frightened.”

Nacy Primrose:
And I was screaming for my sister. I know, to me, she heard me.

Ann Faulds:
I became aware of her voice and she was screaming, “My sister!” I just … Soon is that the first time I heard that I just thought, “Thank God! She’s alive. She’s alive. I’m alive.” Unbelievable.

Saverio Petri:
People where just doing what they could. They were helping bring people out. They were trying to comfort some people who were obviously still trapped, but it was the calmness which was really quite surprising.

Jim Murphy MP:
It’s not that’s it’s not unifying. It’s not something that I ever want to see again.

Speaker 15:
Are you okay?

Samantha Poling:
Within minutes, the emergency services are on the scene.

Lewis Ramsay:
We’ve got 125 firefighters here. They’re not only working outside the perimeter of the building, they’re working inside. They’ve been on the [inaudible 00:14:30] they’ve been on the roof. We are in this building, and we’re carrying out rescues and we’re working hard.

Lewis Ramsay:
We are in the process, at the moment, of making the building stable. It’s very unsafe, but we’re there. We’re carrying out extensive work and we’ll be here for as long as it takes, to make sure that we get those rescues done.

Saverio Petri:
I was obviously made, very quickly, was made aware of the severity of the situation. I certainly saw some people who were very seriously injured and I certainly I saw some people who were showing no signs of life.

Michael Byrne:
Billy had said to me something about, “It was a helicopter.” I was incredulous with the whole thing. I thought “No. That’s not it. It’s the ceiling that collapsed. It’s not a helicopter. Why? That wouldn’t happen.” You know, it was quite incredulous the whole thing.

Michael Byrne:
As I was walking past, I’d seen what I thought was a piece of wood sticking out with a [inaudible 00:15:32] part on the end of it.

Michael Byrne:
And at that point I still thought that’s a rafter; that’s something to do with the structure of the building.

Michael Byrne:
And I know that that sounds silly. That maybe I just wasn’t prepared to believe it was a helicopter and that sort of thing with happen, and afraid of anything.

Michael Byrne:
Helicopters don’t crash any pubs, you know?

Speaker 17:
Breaking news to bring you now at the moment. We’re hearing from our colleagues in Scotland that there are reports that a helicopter has crashed into the roof of a pub.

Samantha Poling:
As news spreads, it’s not just the emergency services who respond.

Laurence W.:
So, I had been at a dinner dance with my wife, a function, and come home and switched on the midnight news it was. And there it all was and as was to be the story again and again throughout the night.

Laurence W.:
Your first belief is, “This can’t be true. This just can’t be true.” But you listen, and you think, “It is. That is a helicopter and it is a police one.” So when I saw that, I thought, “Right. This is it. On you. This is what you do your job for.”

Neil Galbraith:
I got a phone call from my youngest son. He said, “Get on your telly!” So I swapped the channel across to one of the news channels, and it said the helicopter had come down in the city center.

Neil Galbraith:
Then I got another phone call saying it was the police helicopter. But as soon as it said it was the police helicopter, it was a difference of about 20 mile and hour. You know just, out the door, grab the stuff, run into the car.

Laurence W.:
And so I went down, quaking I will confess, down to the barrier and there were the constables. I went up to one and I said, “Right. What you do want me to do?”

Neil Galbraith:
And there was this [inaudible 00:17:32] of the back end of a helicopter sticking up through roof. And because we also knew there was police folk headin’ there, I was watching it.

Neil Galbraith:
In eyes, some of the cops and the older cops, and stuff like, that this was not a job, this was a crusade. No matter what it took and how long it took, they were going in there to get their folk back.

Samantha Poling:
Whilst he stays on site, Reverend Whitley goes to the hospitals, where more than 30 people have now been taken.

Laurence W.:
I expected there to be sort of emotion and instead everybody was very calm. It wasn’t just … it wasn’t shock. It was just, a kind of calm, a feeling as … How is it that out of the blue, out of this clear sky, when you’re just in somewhere, safely inside a building, suddenly your whole world changes.

Samantha Poling:
For Reverend Galbraith, spiritual concerns turned to more practical matters.

Neil Galbraith:
So, I went to the hotels and said to the hotels, “We need tea and coffee. Have you got any he give us?” Within about 15 minutes the whole at the end had tea and coffee and flasks and there was muffins and all the rest and that was the start.

Neil Galbraith:
People were appearing from 24 hours on then [inaudible 00:18:55] no the rest it where there was got the feet in the five thousand. You know, we didn’t have very much to start off with, but within the matter hours kinda thing, the generosity was absolutely amazing.

Samantha Poling:
Back at the hospitals, stories of shock and confusion.

Laurence W.:
Full of contradictions, one man said, “I was standing in the door and the next thing I knew I was outside, lying on the ground.”

Laurence W.:
And he said, “I don’t know how I got there.”

Laurence W.:
It’s very strange.

Samantha Poling:
As dawn breaks over Glasgow, the city faces the full extent of the tragedy.

Alex Salmond:
I think all of us have seen, over the last few hours, the speed and effectiveness of the mobilization of the emergency services in dealing with this tragedy. We’ve also heard of the instinctive courage of ordinary Glaswegians, their going to assist their fellow citizens in extremity.

Alex Salmond:
This is a black day for Glasgow and for Scotland, but it’s also Saint Andrew’s Day, and as today we can take pride in courage and how we respond to adversity and tragedy and that response from our emergency services and from ordinary citizens has been exemplary.

Samantha Poling:
And then comes the first official news of casualties.

Stephen House:
Thirty-two injured people were taken by ambulance from the scene.

Stephen House:
Sadly, at this time, I can also confirm one fatality.

Laurence W.:
At first, all we heard that there was one. That immediately raised hope because we knew, a helicopter would have a crew of three and have only one fatality had occurred that set your pulse is racing, as thought, “Gosh, the two of might have survived.” And that went on for quite a long time and hope rises.

Samantha Poling:
But not for long, soon comes the news everyone has been fearing.

Stephen House:
We can now confirm that the number of fatalities involved in this incident has risen to eight.

Samantha Poling:
The city, the nation, begins to mourn.

Samantha Poling:
As the tributes grow, many of the injured returned to the scene. The cold light of day, bringing with it a stark reality.

Craig Bain:
Came out of hospital. I saw [inaudible 00:21:53] people pass be me. There was a man on the news, he was standing right next to me. He just want to …

Neil Galbraith:
For me it became personal about six last night, and I thought it’s finished and I was kinda hoping that maybe I would go home ’cause I had been out the house since seven o’clock that Friday morning.

Neil Galbraith:
I switched the phone back on and I had missed 19 calls, a lot of them actually him from my sons. They had been getting contacted by one of the families, and a name was given, and I suddenly realized that this is no longer, “Neil doing what he’s supposed to do his job, when this is moved to a different level.”

Samantha Poling:
Reverend Galbraith knew the name because he’d conducted her wedding. It was police constable Kirsty Nellis, who’d been aboard the helicopter. She hadn’t survived.

Samantha Poling:
News of other confirmed victims begins to reach loved ones, yet more bodies remain trapped. One man, his father, a regular at the Clutha, hears of the helicopter crash on his bus journey home.

John M.:
I’m sitting and this gentleman behind me said to me … It was a shock. You just had to tell somebody on a bus, it was like for of us in the bottom deck it was.

John M.:
He said, “Have you seen this?” and I said, “What’s that mate?”

John M.:
He said, “Look at this.” I see there’s helicopter crashed under the Clutha bar and the roof of the Clutha bar. Where are we, I like, “Oh my God!” Hands in my face, I went, “My dad!”

John M.:
They guy went, “Well …” I says, “My dad! My dad’s in there!”

John M.:
He’s like, “You’re joking, right?” I says, “No, my dad’s in there. He’s dead.”

John M.:
He’s like, “Nah, he can’t.” I says, “Listen to me I know.”

Samantha Poling:
After two long days, John finally here’s what he’s been dreading most.

Samantha Poling:
You received a phone call just a few hours ago.

John M.:
Yeah, yeah. Got a phone call, about an hour ago in fact, and that was the police and they confirmed. They’re bringing two people out, I have to go over some point this afternoon, me my sisters, go on out to ID my dad.

Samantha Poling:
So far, nine people have been confirmed as having died in Friday’s crash.

Samantha Poling:
Already the investigation into what caused the tragedy has begun. Answers though won’t come anytime soon.

Samantha Poling:
For the families the wait will be a painful one. Now though it’s a time of grieving, reflecting, and supporting.

Samantha Poling:
Candles lit, to remember the dead. Thoughts and prayers for the injured.

Laurence W.:
We do not end this day, in despair and lostness, but our answer is that we stand defiant and that our great and vibrant and irrepressible city shall stand together with our suffering ones and hand-in-hand go forward into the light. Into the light.

Samantha Poling:
That defiance, that togetherness, shown so clearly by so many.

Speaker 24:
I just left an ambulance bay to come down here this morning and since to talk to flight paramedics, who were involved, and they’re deeply upset with what’s happened. We are working with them to provide what support we can.

Speaker 25:
I’ve just came from the Cathedral up there, and just lit a candle there. Say a prayer for the people that lost your life.

Samantha Poling:
On Friday night, Glasgow experienced a tragedy which reverberated around the world.

Samantha Poling:
A tragedy it will continue to mourn and not soon forget.

Samantha Poling:
Yet a tragedy which many feel has allowed a side of the city to shine through as never before.

Ann Faulds:
Biggest belief in heroism and these are heroes, you know, you think of heroes and these are true heroes. The people that put themselves at risk to try and get people, that they don’t know, of a pub. To see bodies being dragged out and just … I can’t thank the people of Glasgow enough.

Michael Byrne:
When that happened on Friday night, no one I came in contact with had any regard for their own safety.

Billy Byrne:
It was a collective effort. A lot of people helping everybody that needed to be helped, was helped by people who could help them.

Gordon Smart:
The two things that will live with me until I’m an old man will be, the images of the helicopter falling, and in the manner it did, but also the people running towards the scene. Yeah, that’ll be with me until my dying days; it’s summed up Glasgow in seconds.

Laurence W.:
Glaswegians respond to everything with their heart first. With their heart before any other part.

Laurence W.:
Now, yes, there are times when that can be unfortunate, but in a situation like this, it’s just so typical that they respond without any hesitation.

Michael Byrne:
If somebody needs help, you only need help them. I think that’s just the rules.

Speaker 26:
For details of organizations, which offer advice and support, call the BBC action line to hear recorded information on 0800 888 809. Lines are open 24 hours and calls are free from most landlines. Some networks and mobile operators will charge.