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Clutha helicopter crash could have been prevented, inquiry concludes

It found the pilot failed to follow procedure set down in the flight checklist.

The helicopter crashed into the Clutha pub in Glasgow in November 2013 (PA)
The helicopter crashed into the Clutha pub in Glasgow in November 2013 (PA)

By Lucinda Cameron, PA Scotland

A helicopter crash which killed 10 people could have been prevented if the pilot had followed emergency procedures relating to low fuel warnings, an inquiry has found.

Three crew members and seven customers died when the Police Scotland aircraft fell on to the roof of the Clutha bar in Glasgow on November 29, 2013.

Captain David Traill’s failure to follow the procedure set down in the pilot’s checklist was “inexplicable”, a fatal accident inquiry found.

The inquiry concluded the crash happened after the helicopter’s engines flamed out sequentially while it was airborne, as a result of fuel starvation due to depletion of the contents of the supply tank.

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Captain David Traill was piloting the helicopter at the time of the crash (Police Scotland/PA)

The accident was caused by Captain Traill’s failure to ensure that at least one of the fuel transfer pump switches was set to on, the inquiry found.

In his determination, Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull said the central issue was why the pilot allowed the supply tanks to deplete to the point that they did when there was more than sufficient usable fuel
available to him in the main tank to allow the helicopter to return to its base.

The report found both the fuel transfer pump switches were in the off position when the low fuel warnings were triggered.

It said that had one or both of them been switched back on by Captain Traill at that point in time, the helicopter would not have crashed – however they were left off.

Mr Turnbull’s determination found there was enough time between the first and second engine flame-outs for Captain Traill to have switched on the fuel transfer pumps.

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Ten people including the pilot were killed in the crash (handouts/PA)

The pilot and two crew members on the helicopter, Pc Tony Collins, 43, and Pc Kirsty Nelis, 36, were killed along with seven customers in the Clutha bar – Gary Arthur, 48, Joe Cusker, 59, Colin Gibson, 33, Robert Jenkins, 61, John McGarrigle, 58, Samuel McGhee, 56, and Mark O’Prey, 44

More than 100 people were at the pub when the helicopter crashed as it was returning to its base on the banks of the River Clyde.

One eyewitness who gave evidence at the FAI told how the helicopter made a “spluttering noise” before it fell from the sky, while another said it sounded like a car stalling.

An Air Accidents Investigation 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.

PA

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