- Exact cause of last month’s crash is still unclear
- Investigators say there was no evidence of engine or gearbox failure
- Forensic team say neither main or tail rotor were turning at time of crash
- Air Accidents Investigation Branch still examining chopper wreckage
- Funerals of two victims, Mark O’Prey and Gary Arthur held today
Investigators have found no initial evidence of engine or gearbox failure in their probe into the police helicopter crash in Glasgow which claimed nine lives.
The helicopter crashed on to the flat roof of the The Clutha Vaults on the night of November 29 with a high rate of descent and with low or negligible forward speed, a special bulletin from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) revealed.
The exact cause of the crash is still unclear following the interim report, with the AAIB saying that the weather was good, that so far there was no evidence of engine or gearbox failure and that ‘all significant components were present’ at the time of impact.
In addition, the helicopter still had 95 litres of the 400kg of fuel that it had taken off with from Glasgow City Heliport.
The AAIB said the twin-engined Eurocopter EC 135 aircraft had no flight recorders, nor was required to do so. But there were some non crash-protected system recordings that could be studied along with radio communications and closed circuit TV recordings.
Saying that the investigation would continue, the AAIB promised to report any significant developments.
The pilot of the helicopter David Traill, 51, and his two passengers – police officers Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43 – were killed in the crash as were six people inside the pub.
The pilot had requested and received clearance from air traffic controllers to re-enter the Glasgow control zone at 10.18pm and there were no further radio transmissions received from him.
The AAIB added that radar contact with the helicopter was lost at 10.22pm.
The report went on: ‘Around this time, the helicopter was seen and heard by a witness who described hearing a noise like a loud “misfiring car”, followed by silence.
‘He then saw the helicopter descend rapidly. It crashed through the roof of The Clutha Bar, a single-storey building on Stockwell Street in central Glasgow.’
The report said that initial evidence indicated that the helicopter struck the flat roof of the pub ‘with a high rate of descent and low/negligible forward speed’.
The three occupants of the helicopter and six people in, or adjacent to, the bar were fatally injured. Thirty two other people suffered injuries, 12 seriously.’
The six who died inside the pub were Robert Jenkins, 61, Mark O’Prey, 44, Colin Gibson, 33, John McGarrigle, 57, Gary Arthur, 48, and Samuel McGhee, 56.
The AAIB went on: ‘Preliminary examination showed that all main rotor blades were attached at the time of the impact but that neither the main rotor nor the fenestron tail rotor (a form of protected tail rotor) were rotating.
‘The impact forces caused the roof of the bar to collapse and (the) helicopter entered the building, its forward section coming to rest on and amongst building debris.
‘Very extensive damage and disruption of the helicopter structure and components resulted from the impact forces and from contact with the collapsing building. The helicopter did, however, remain approximately upright.’
On duty: Police constables Tony Colins, 43, and Kirsty Nellis, 36, were both on board the helicopter when it crashed, killing them both and their civilian pilot
Victims: Window cleaner Mark O’Prey, 44, and Samuel McGhee, 56, had both been inside the pub
The AAB said its team, working closely with the emergency services and the authorities in Glasgow, had conducted a preliminary examination of the aircraft within the collapsed area of the pub.
After that, the damaged sections of the building were shored up and made safe, ‘enabling closer examination to be carried out’.
The report went on: ‘Initial assessment provided no evidence of major mechanical disruption of either engine and indicated that the main rotor gearbox was capable of providing drive from the No 2 engine turbine to the main rotor and to the fenestron drive shaft.’
However, the state of the building limited the extent to which examination of the helicopter was possible at the scene, the AAIB added.
The report continued: ‘After further debris removal and cutting off the main rotor blade, it was determined that the helicopter structure remained sufficiently robust for it to be lifted clear of the building by means of a crane, using strops attached to the main rotor head.
‘Once removed from the building, approximately 95 litres of fuel were drained from the fuel tank system.’
Colin Gibson, 33, left, was killed in the Glasgow helicopter crash, along with Robert Jenkins, 61, pictured right
John McGarrigle, 57, was killed in the disaster, as was 48-year-old Gary Arthur, who was the first victim to be named by police
The helicopter was then transferred to its headquarters at Farnborough in Hampshire. The AAIB promised to report any significant developments as the investigation progressed.
The pilots’ union Balpa said: ‘The information published by the AAIB today is a helpful first assessment of the facts of the case and suggests there is no evidence of mechanical engine failure.
‘But, unfortunately, at this stage, there is not much more to go on and the reasons behind the crash are, in truth, far from clear. The AAIB must be given the time to complete its thorough investigation and we have faith in their ability to do so.’
The special bulletin was released on the same day that the families of two victims gathered together to mark their funerals.
Friends of Mark O’Prey attended a service in his home town of East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, where hundreds of mourners packed into St Bride’s RC Church to pay their respects.
Among them were pupils from the nearby St Andrew’s and St Bride’s school, which Mr O’Prey’s son Liam, 15, attends.
Support: Teenager Liam O’Prey is comforted at his father’s funeral, left. Crash victim Mr O’Prey was described as an ‘adorable, loveable giant’ at the service
Last week, the family of Mr O’Prey described him as a ‘lovable giant’ and they believe he died while trying to help others escape the pub.
Just a few miles away, mourners gathered to pay their last respects to Mr Arthur in Paisley. He was the first of the crash victims to be publicly named in the days following the incident.
The humanist service at Woodside Crematorium was estimated to have been attended by 400 to 500 people, many of whom had to stand outside.
In a statement released ahead of the funeral, Mr Arthur’s family said: ‘We loved him dearly and always will, we will miss him so much.’
On Saturday, Around 700 mourners gathered for the service for helicopter pilot captain David Traill, 51, and prayers were said for all of those who died in the crash.
Source Daily mail