Clutha inquiry to begin with tributes

3 April 2019, 14:41

Clutha Bar in Glasgow

Personal statements about some of those who died when a police helicopter crashed into a pub will be read out as a "moving and fitting tribute" to them at the start of the inquiry.

The pilot, two crew members and seven people in the Clutha bar in Glasgow were killed when the Police Scotland helicopter crashed on to the roof of the building on November 29 2013.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the tragedy will begin on Monday April 8.

Senior Counsel Sean Smith told a final preliminary hearing ahead of the FAI that both those participating in the inquiry and those not represented have been asked if they want to provide personal statements with a view to them being read out at the start of the inquiry.

Statements will be read on behalf of victims Gary Arthur, Robert Jenkins, Samuel McGhee and Colin Gibson, while John McGarrigle's son is expected to provide one.

Mr Smith, who is leading the inquiry, said: "Providing a statement encapsulating in a few sentences someone that they loved is a difficult matter.

"Some family members may wish to keep such matters personal.

"Where representatives have provided statements, the Crown is confident this will provide a moving and fitting tribute to the deceased."

There will be no personal statements on behalf of pilot David Traill and crew Tony Collins and Kirsty Nelis, while relatives of Joe Cusker have not indicated whether they wish to provide one.

Jonathan Brodie QC, representing the family of Mark O'Prey, said they were still considering the matter.

He said: "Both Mr O'Prey and his wife have found this very difficult. The parents have so far just not found it something that they are able to do.

"I think it's something that they would wish to do."

He said they were unlikely to have one ready by Monday when the inquiry starts but that one might become available later.

Sheriff principal Craig Turnbull, who is overseeing the FAI, said: "I cannot begin to envisage how difficult it is to encapsulate someone's life in a statement of any length.

"There's no pressure, a statement can come on the first day or the last day and if it does not come it does not come."

He suggested the statements could be read by Mr Smith or by those representing the families of victims.

More than 100 people were at the Clutha Vaults pub when the helicopter, returning to its base on the banks of the River Clyde, crashed through the roof.

An Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) report published in 2015 found two fuel supply switches were off and the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning in the cockpit.

Mr Turnbull said a minute's silence will be held at the start of the inquiry in memory of those who died.

Mr Smith told the hearing the first four weeks of evidence will be taken up with witnesses from the AAIB and Airbus.

The FAI, which is being held at Hampden Park, is expected to involve around three months' of evidence spread over six calendar months this year.