GLASGOW, Scotland, (Reuters) – At least one person was killed and 32 injured when a police helicopter crashed into the roof of a packed Glasgow pub, trapping many inside in choking dust and debris.
The death toll is expected to rise, Scottish police said.
Witnesses said the helicopter dropped from the sky like a stone onto the busy Clutha Pub in Scotland’s biggest city at 10:25 p.m. on Friday night as over 100 people listened to a live music concert.
More than 10 hours later, emergency workers were still searching through the rubble for survivors in the shadow of the mangled blue helicopter, which was embedded in the pub’s roof.
“Sadly at this time I can confirm one fatality. We expect that number to increase over the coming hours,” Chief Constable of Police Scotland Stephen House told reporters, adding 32 people had been taken to hospital.
There were three people aboard the helicopter, two police officers and a civilian pilot, when it crashed.
As dawn broke, expert rescue teams and firefighters were labouring to make the pub safe and free anyone still under the rubble. Earlier, rescuers said they had spoken to people trapped under debris.
House said the recovery operation would take some time and he could not confirm if anyone was still thought to be alive.
“We’re still in a search-and-recovery phase and as always … our prayers are that it’ll be successful and we do recover people alive,” he said.
The 12-metre (40 ft) helicopter carrying two police officers and a civilian pilot spiralled into the pub in a busy area of Glasgow, destroying part of the roof.
“It was fairly busy, we were all having a nice time and then
there was like a ‘whoosh’ noise,” Grace MacLean, who was in the pub at the time, told the BBC.
“There was no bang, no explosion and then there was what seemed like smoke and we were all joking that the band had made the roof come down, and then it started to come down more and someone started screaming, and the whole pub filled with dust and you couldn’t see anything, you couldn’t breath.”
Caked in dust and blood, revellers rushed out into the street immediately after the crash.
Police said it was too early to speculate on what caused the Eurocopter EC135 T2, made by a subsidiary of EADS, to come down. The aircraft did not appear to have caught fire. The Air Accident Investigation Branch has begun an investigation.
“This is a black day for Glasgow and for Scotland,” said Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, noting that Saturday was St Andrew’s Day, Scotland’s national day.
(Writing by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Roche)