Glasgow & West Scotland

Clutha tragedy: Pilot flew on after fuel warning

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Media captionThe police helicopter crashed on to the Clutha bar on 29 November 2013, killing 10 people

A pilot whose helicopter crashed onto a pub, killing 10 people, did not follow emergency protocol and flew on despite low fuel warnings, it has emerged.

The findings on the Clutha bar tragedy in Glasgow came in a report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

It said fuel transfer pumps were turned off and a controlled landing was not achieved for "unknown reasons".

The report also recommends that all police helicopters be equipped with black box flight recording equipment.

Scotland's Crown Office has now confirmed that a fatal accident inquiry into the crash will be held as soon as possible.

The report into the crash, which took place on 29 November 2013, said:

  • the fuel pumps were switched off when the helicopter was somewhere between Dalkeith in Midlothian and Bothwell in South Lanarkshire
  • the first "low fuel" indicator activated somewhere before Bothwell
  • the audible "low fuel" warning was acknowledged by the pilot, David Traill, five times. Guidelines say he should have landed within 10 minutes, but did not
  • there were about 32 seconds between the first engine flaming out and the second, but the single engine emergency shutdown checklist was not completed in that time
  • there was no evidence of any technical malfunction and there was fuel left in the tanks.

At a glance guide to the investigators' findings.

Image caption Clutha victims: (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

Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) chief inspector Keith Conradi said: "The AAIB is independent, tasked with investigating the causes of accidents to prevent recurrence and help make aviation safer.

"We do not apportion blame in our reports.

"We have made a series of safety recommendations in this final report including that European and British civil aviation regulators require all police and medical helicopters to carry flight recording equipment."

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said the CAA had assisted the AAIB with its investigation and would study the report and its recommendations.

'Deeply disappointing'

He added: "We will continue to work with helicopter operators to achieve the highest possible safety standards."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was "deeply disappointing that after two years of investigation the report does not reach a clearer conclusion".

She said that in some respects, the report "seems to raise more questions than it answers".

She added: "I therefore share the disappointment of the families that it does not provide the closure they sought and hope that the FAI that the Crown Office has now said will happen as soon as possible, can help the families get the answers they seek."

A Crown Office spokesman said: "The report raises a number of questions for which the families of the victims deserve answers.

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Media captionThe AAIB'S Keith Conradi says the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning

"The Crown will now conduct further investigations into some of the complex issues raised by the AAIB report.

"We will endeavour to do this as quickly as possible but these matters are challenging and the necessary expertise is restricted to a small number of specialists."

The Police Scotland Eurocopter EC 135 was operated by Bond Air Services, which said: "Today's AAIB report is an important step in the process of understanding the terrible events of that night, although some questions remain unanswered.

"The AAIB has made no specific recommendations for Bond, but we are studying the report and will continue to work with others, including the manufacturer and regulators, to learn from its findings."

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of Police Scotland said: "Since the crash, Police Scotland has been carrying out an extensive major investigation under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

"Today's publication of the report by the AAIB contains a large amount of technical detail and is a significant milestone.

"The AAIB's findings will now be considered by Police Scotland's investigation team and the Crown."

Relatives' anger

The helicopter crew who were killed were pilot David Traill, PC Tony Collins and PC Kirsty Nelis.

Seven customers in the Clutha died. They were John McGarrigle, Mark O'Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, Samuel McGhee and Joe Cusker.

Relatives of those who died were informed about the AAIB's findings at private meetings in Glasgow on Wednesday and Thursday.

Image caption John McGarrigle, whose father died in the tragedy, said he was "furious" that the report was inconclusive

Speaking after the report had been published, John McGarrigle who lost his father John in the crash, said it was now obvious why he was "furious".

He said the document did not give answers and that he had been "bombarded by data and graphs and numbers for three hours at the meeting" on Wednesday.

Mr McGarrigle said at the end of the meeting the families were told about the two fuel supply switches being in the off position and they may never know why.

He said he was angry about the length of time it had taken for the report to come out.

Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty said the city council was "acutely aware that bereaved families and friends are struggling to cope".

She said: "They are in our thoughts and prayers as they express disappointment and frustration at their questions not being adequately answered.

"The council's major incident support team will be available to anyone seeking assistance."

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