Pilot error to blame for fatal Clutha helicopter crash

Three crew members and seven customers died following the incident in 2013.

Victims: Colin Gibson, Mark O'Prey, Samuel McGhee, Gary Arthur, Joe Cusker, John McGarrigle, David Traill, Tony Collins, Robert Jenkins and Kirsty Nelis.
Victims: Colin Gibson, Mark O'Prey, Samuel McGhee, Gary Arthur, Joe Cusker, John McGarrigle, David Traill, Tony Collins, Robert Jenkins and Kirsty Nelis.

Pilot error was to blame for the Clutha helicopter crash that claimed the lives of ten people, a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) has found.

Three crew members and seven customers died when a police aircraft fell into the roof of the Glasgow bar on November 29, 2013. A further 31 people in the pub were injured.

The FAI found the crash could have been prevented if pilot Captain David Traill had followed emergency procedures relating to low fuel warnings.

The inquiry concluded that 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’.


Those who were in the helicopter were pilot Captain Traill, 51, PC Tony Collins, 43, and PC Kirsty Nelis, 36.

The seven customers were Gary Arthur, 48; Joe Cusker, 59; Colin Gibson, 33; Robert Jenkins, 61; John McGarrigle, 58; Samuel McGhee, 56; and Mark O’Prey, 44.

An inquiry looking into the incident was announced by the Crown Office in 2017 and took place at a temporary court at Hampden in Glasgow between April and August this year.

On Wednesday, the FAI findings were published.


Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull determined the crash was caused by the engines flaming out as a result of fuel starvation due to the supply tank becoming depleted.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) previously found the main cause of the incident to be fuel starvation.

Incident: The helicopter crashed into the pub. Crown Office

The report found that 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, the helicopter would not have crashed.

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

The inquiry heard that five low fuel warnings were acknowledged during the helicopter’s final flight.

The Sheriff Principal said that by not carrying out the actions set out in the Pilot’s Checklist, Captain Traill “consciously took a risk in proceeding on the basis that the low fuel warnings were in some way erroneous”, with fatal consequences.

Glasgow: Ten people died after the crash. Crown Office

Sheriff Turnbull found that there were “two reasonable precautions which could have been taken and, had they been taken, might realistically have resulted in the deaths being avoided”.

There were no defects in any system or training failures which contributed to the deaths, the FAI found.

The Sheriff Principal concluded that the circumstances of the accident were “so unusual that it is improbable they will be repeated, even without the introduction of the safety actions taken since the accident”.

Sheriff Turnbull added: “The fact that it took more than two years from the publication of the AAIB report to the decision that there were to be no criminal proceedings is surprising, notwithstanding the extensive work carried out by Police Scotland and the Crown in the intervening period.

“It took far too long to lodge a notice of an inquiry in this case, although the inquiry itself was conducted with great efficiency for which all those responsible for its preparation and conduct are to be commended.

“The Crown was not sufficiently resourced to enable the inquiry to start far sooner than it did.”

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