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Clutha helicopter crash report ‘does no justice to memories of victims’

Dr Lucy Thomas, fiancee of pilot David Traill, said Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull’s findings were ‘distressing and incomprehensible’.

Workers at the scene of the police helicopter crash at the Clutha Bar in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Workers at the scene of the police helicopter crash at the Clutha Bar in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

By Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland

The inquiry report into the helicopter crash that killed 10 people in Glasgow does no justice to the memories of the victims, according to the pilot’s fiancee.

David Traill was one of three crew members who died along with seven customers when the Police Scotland aircraft fell on to the roof of the Clutha bar on November 29, 2013.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the crash concluded it was caused by the captain’s failure to ensure at least one of the fuel transfer pump switches was set to on.

The sheriff principal has opted to sully the distinguished reputation of a pilot with an exemplary record who was renowned for his sense of responsibility and his regard for the safety of his crew Dr Lucy Thomas

In a statement nearly a week after the inquiry’s findings, Mr Traill’s fiancee Dr Lucy Thomas broke her silence to criticise the decision of Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull.

Dr Thomas said she had been compelled to respond after feeling “overwhelmed by the support that I have received from so many people, many of whom don’t know me and didn’t know Dave”.

She said: “In my opinion, the sheriff principal’s determination does no justice to the memories of Gary Arthur, Tony Collins, Joe Cusker, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, John McGarrigle, Samuel McGhee, Kirsty Nelis, Mark O’Prey, and to the memory and reputation of Dave Traill.

“It insults the intelligence of those who know of the evidence presented at the inquiry and are aware of the content of the initial AAIB report.

“Disbelief has been expressed by many family members of those who died and by members of the public at the conclusion drawn by Sheriff Principal Turnbull, who incredulously stated that Dave consciously took risks which caused the accident.

“This expression of disbelief speaks volumes and means much more to me than the opinion of the sheriff principal.

“I find it distressing and incomprehensible that given months, not moments, to consider the facts, the sheriff principal has come to this conclusion.”

She added: “He chose not to concentrate on the fact that the EC135 model of helicopter has a history of faults with the caution advisory display, specifically a history of erroneous or spurious fuel indications, amongst other technical problems such as contamination of the fuel tanks, issues still never fully resolved by the manufacturer.

“Instead, the sheriff principal has opted to sully the distinguished reputation of a pilot with an exemplary record who was renowned for his sense of responsibility and his regard for the safety of his crew.

“The opportunity for closure and maybe some peace for so many people has been denied.”

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David Traill, the pilot of the helicopter that crashed on to the roof of the Clutha (Police Scotland/PA)

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.

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.

In his determination, Mr Turnbull said the incident could have been prevented if the pilot had followed emergency procedures relating to low fuel warnings.

Dr Thomas said: “It is my understanding that due to misleading information from the aircraft fuel gauge and display system, Dave had only moments to make decisions and carry out tasks in an attempt to respond to this issue.

“It is also my understanding that he should have had a significantly longer timescale in which to do so before the helicopter would lose both engines.

“The manufacturer’s aircraft maintenance manual incorrectly recorded that the flameout time between engines was three to four minutes. This was incorrect information.

“The correct time available should have been in excess of one minute but due to the design of the fuel tanks allowing for fuel from one tank to slop over into another, he had only 32 seconds.

“That 32 seconds ended in tragedy and the loss of his and nine other valuable lives.

“This has devastated the lives of all who surround them and impacted on so many more.”

PA

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