Scottish police helicopter pub crash causes numerous casualties
(AFP) A police helicopter smashed through the roof of a crowded pub in the Scottish city of Glasgow, causing numerous casualties including probable deaths and leaving several people trapped in the rubble, officials said Saturday.
Emergency services said they had been in contact with an unknown number of people inside the wreckage of the Clutha Pub, where more than 100 revellers had been listening to a band before the freak accident on Friday night.
Witnesses said they saw the chopper dropping like a stone from the sky, while people inside the pub heard a whooshing sound before the roof caved in and the air filled with dust and screams.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed that a police helicopter had been involved in the "tragic accident", adding: "Given an incident of this scale we must all prepare ourselves for the likelihood of fatalities."
Police said there were two police officers and a civilian pilot on board the Eurocopter EC135 helicopter but did not give details of their condition, and said it was too early to say what caused the crash.
Fire brigade officer Lewis Ramsay told reporters that "fire crews have been in contact with people trapped within Clutha bar and have also rescued numerous casualties".
There were "multiple types of injuries" among those who had been rescued, he said.
Ramsay said that 125 firefighters were "working to make sure the building is safe to get people out" and that the building was "very unsafe".
An AFP photographer at the scene said the helicopter appeared to have smashed through the top of the single-storey pub on the banks of the River Clyde, with a rotor blade sticking out of the roof.
Dozens of firefighters and paramedics were swarming around the scene, with emergency services also apparently securing the building with cables and a cherry-picker.
Police officer Rose Fitzgerald said it was too early to say why the helicopter crashed.
"I can confirm there are a number of casualties but it is too early at this stage to provide further details. We will provide further updates at the appropriate time," she said.
Witnesses told of confusion, terror and then bravery after the accident.
Grace MacLean, who was inside the pub at the time of the crash, told BBC News that the revellers were listening to a Ska band at the time.
"We were all just having a nice time and then there was like a 'whoosh' noise -- there was no bang, there was no explosion," she said.
"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."
The band, Esperanza, later said on their Facebook page that they were all well.
Jim Murphy, a Labour party member of parliament and spokesman for international development, told the BBC he was driving through the area shortly after the incident.
"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," he said.
He said he and other people formed a human chain to get survivors out of the pub.
"The helicopter was inside the pub. It's a mess. I could only get a yard or two inside. I helped carry people out."
Gordon Smart, editor of the the Scottish edition of Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper, said he saw the helicopter coming down.
"It was just such a surreal moment. It looked like it was dropping from a great height at a great speed. I'm about 80 percent sure that it was a police helicopter," he told Sky News.
"There was no fireball and I did not hear an explosion. It fell like a stone. The engine seemed to be spluttering."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with everyone affected by the helicopter crash in Glasgow - and the emergency services working tonight."