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Prince visits helicopter crash site

The Prince of Wales has visited the site where a police helicopter crashed into a busy pub, killing nine people.

Charles met members of the emergency services at the Clutha bar in Glasgow where tragedy struck a week ago.

He heard about the complex rescue and recovery operation from Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House.

The Prince, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, also spoke to Alasdair Hay, chief officer of Scottish Fire and Rescue, and Pauline Howie, chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service.

He will later sign a book of condolence at the City Chambers.

Two police constables and a civilian pilot were killed when the helicopter crashed on to the roof of the busy pub on Friday night while returning from a police operation. The crew members were captain David Traill, 51, and officers Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43.

Six people died inside the pub where live music was being played at the time. They were Robert Jenkins, 61, Mark O'Prey, 44, Colin Gibson, 33, John McGarrigle, 57, Gary Arthur, 48, and Samuel McGhee, 56.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited the crash site earlier this week and tributes have also been laid at the scene by Glasgow-born comedian and actor Billy Connolly, Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers manager Ally McCoist.

Air crash investigators have begun an examination of the wreckage.

Charles spent around 10 minutes inside the Clutha, surveying the destroyed interior.

More than a dozen bags of rubble and a large pile of wooden planks sat outside the pub behind a large police cordon.

Owner Alan Crossan met the Prince and said he appreciated the visit.

"It's a special thing for people who have been affected and for the emergency services, who did an incredible job," he said.

Charles went on to meet a number of crash survivors including Calum Grierson and John Robson.

The two were with six friends in the Clutha when the helicopter hit.

They were visiting the scene today to see the hundreds of floral tributes laid near the pub.

Mr Grierson, 59, from Hamilton, Lanarkshire, said a friend called Alan pulled him and others from the Clutha.

Walking with a stick and with a cut and bruise on his head, he said: "Our feet were stuck. We couldn't get out ourselves. If Alan hadn't got us out ... he didn't think twice about coming back in."

Mr Robson, 62, from Glasgow, said: "I thought a bomb had gone off. It just went black. It was terrifying.

"The next thing we were on the ground. Then Alan came in shouting 'don't panic, we'll get you out'."

Mr Robson said: "It was amazing the amount of people that came running towards you, going 'are you okay' and trying to get you sat down and get you some water."

Both men said they appreciated the Prince of Wales's visit.

Charles later met around 40 health workers who were involved in the immediate response to the helicopter crash.

He was introduced to a range of staff who work for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, meeting people who took on a variety of roles both at the city's hospitals and at the scene of the tragedy.

Nurses, doctors and other clinical staff were among those he met at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, along with hospital porters and administrative workers.

The visit to the hospital's New Lister Building was an extra stop during his trip to Glasgow, in addition to the engagements published on his website.

More than 30 people were treated in hospitals across the city for injuries suffered in the accident. Thirty-two were admitted in the immediate aftermath and one person went to hospital on Monday after consulting their GP.

The patients were initially treated at three locations: Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the Victoria Infirmary and the Western Infirmary. Subsequently, four people were transferred to the spinal injury unit at Southern General Hospital.

Today, six patients remain in the Royal Infirmary and four are still at the Southern General.

Fractures, head injuries and spinal injuries were some of the main injuries suffered by those caught up in the accident.

On hearing about the crash, hundreds of staff volunteered to go in to work to help with the emergency response, the heath board said.

Leaving the hospital after just over half an hour, Charles said to all the gathered staff: "We'll done everybody, I'm very proud of you."

Speaking after the visit, Andrew Robertson, chairman of the health board, said: "It's a great boost for everybody. It's recognition of the special effort over and above the call of duty.

"He was clearly showing appreciation and a great humanity. He was brilliant, he engaged with every single person here."

Mr Robertson also expressed his own "huge appreciation" for the work of the health board staff.

"It's a great privilege to be head of an organisation where there is just such professionalism, such skill, such resilience and real compassion," he said.

Emergency department consultant Alastair Ireland, clinical lead for emergency care at the Royal Infirmary, said he was at home when he heard about the crash on the news.

"I phoned up to the department to confirm that they were alerted to a major incident. They confirmed that so I just came straight in.

"The first patient to arrive was seven minutes after the initial call and they all arrived very quickly after that. Seven were already in when I got there and were already being assessed and treated, and another two arrived shortly afterwards at the Royal Infirmary.

"There is a plan, we know what to do and teams started to take over the management of each patient and specialists came down from all the other parts of the hospital.

"We were able to do the initial assessment and treatment of those patients really rapidly and were ready to receive more casualties quite quickly afterwards."

Asked whether it was the most frantic night of his career, he said: "In all honesty, emergency departments do this every day. We get influxes of people every day. This is obviously much higher profile but we have numbers of sick people arriving simultaneously, so we're quite used to it.

"I was really struck by the calmness of the patients. Seven of our patients were severely injured but they were really, really stoical.

"Each department was really grateful for the fact that the rest of the hospital joined them and helped out. People came in from home without even being asked. Three of our former junior doctors just arrived in the department.

"The fact is that on all the hospital sites in Glasgow and Clyde people just came in and started to ready themselves."

After the Clutha visit Mr Grierson said: "He was interested to hear how we were progressing.

"He was very genuine and it was a pleasure to meet him."

Charles then spoke to survivor Ann Faulds and her eight-year-old granddaughter Megan Faulds, who hugged him.

The Quarry Brae Primary School pupil had wanted to ask about his grandson George, her grandmother said, but she lost her words on meeting the Prince.

Ann and her sister Nancy had been in the Clutha on a night out last Friday.


From Belfast Telegraph