Glasgow - At least one person was killed by a police
helicopter crash that wrecked a busy Glasgow pub, with the death toll set to
rise on Saturday as rescuers battled to find survivors.
The chopper smashed into the roof of The Clutha pub, where
more than 100 revellers had packed in to watch a band play on Friday night
ahead of St Andrew's Day, Scotland's national day celebrating its patron saint.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond called it a "black
day" for the nation as emergency service workers tried to make the
one-storey building secure enough to permit full access to the scene.
Police said 32 people had been taken by ambulance to three
hospitals across Scotland's biggest city after the helicopter plunged into the
city centre bar at 22:25.
"Sadly I can also confirm one fatality. We expect that
number to increase over the coming hours," Police Scotland Chief Constable
Stephen House told reporters.
"Given the damage caused and the nature of the damage,
it will take some time to complete the search of the building."
Asked if there were people still alive trapped inside, House
replied: "We can't say that definitively at this moment in time."
Witnesses said the helicopter, with two police officers and
a civilian pilot on board, dropped like a stone, while people inside the pub
heard a whoosh before the roof caved in and the air filled with dust and
Emergency services worked through the night in a bid to
recover people from the wreckage.
An AFP photographer at the scene said the helicopter
appeared to have smashed through the top of the bar, with a rotor blade
sticking out of the roof.
The site by the banks of the River Clyde had been cordoned
off, with emergency service workers visible on the roof on Saturday. A
tarpaulin had been placed over the area where the helicopter hit.
Search and recovery phase
"We're still in a search and recovery phase, and as
always our prayers are that it is successful and we do recover people
alive," House said.
"There are people on the scene trying to make contact
with anyone who may be alive. It is an unclear situation."
A sombre Salmond - who just days earlier was celebrating the
release of a legal blueprint for Scottish independence - sent his condolences
to the bereaved and solidarity to those injured.
"This is a black day for Glasgow and for Scotland. But
it's also St Andrew's Day and it's a day we can take pride and courage in how
we respond to adversity and tragedy," the nationalist leader said.
He praised the "instinctive courage of ordinary
Glaswegians going to assist their fellow citizens in extremity".
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has sent a team to
the scene to try to work out why the Eurocopter EC135 T2 helicopter crashed.