Helicopter crash casts pall over Scotland’s national day

Helicopter crash casts pall over Scotland’s national day

GLASGOW - The pubs were festooned with flags for Scotland's Saint Andrew's Day festivities, but a day after a police helicopter made a fatal plunge into a Glasgow bar, nobody felt like celebrating.

Desperate friends waited all day on Saturday at the edge of a police cordon set up around the Clutha pub, hoping for news of loved ones who were inside the packed city-centre nightspot on Friday night when the police helicopter came down.

Eight people died, including three on the helicopter and five in the pub, and 32 were injured.

At the Clutha's nearby rival, the Scotia, blue-and-white Scottish flags hung behind the bar to mark the day of Scotland's patron saint Andrew, along with gaudy Christmas decorations.

But the festive scene clashed with the sombre mood among the drinkers.

Robert McKay, a 57-year-old plumber, was waiting there for news of two missing friends. He believed a third friend had already been confirmed dead.

"I had three pals in there," he told AFP as he stepped outside the Scotia for a cigarette. "You stay hopeful, but..." He trailed off, his eyes on the tarpaulin-covered wreck sticking out of the Clutha's ruined roof.

Like many of those nursing pints at the Scotia, McKay was also a regular at the Clutha, whose popular live band performances meant it was always jam-packed at 10:30 pm on a Friday, when the disaster struck.

"There's a big group of us who've been drinking here for 30 years, bouncing between the two pubs," he said. "It's a real lively place, especially when there's live music on."

More than 100 people were inside when the chopper crashed in the centre of Scotland's biggest city. As well as the eight confirmed dead, 14 people remain seriously injured, police said.

 

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