Clutha owner: FAI does not bring closure six years on

Alan Crossan believes there was a design fault with the aircraft that crashed into the bar.

Survivor: Mary Kavanagh lost her partner Robert Jenkins in the tragedy. <strong>STV</strong>
Survivor: Mary Kavanagh lost her partner Robert Jenkins in the tragedy. STV

The owner of the Clutha Bar said the findings of an inquiry into the fatal helicopter crash do not bring closure six years on from the tragedy.

Alan Crossan told STV News he believes there was a design fault with the aircraft and said “it’s just a matter of time before we get another accident like that”.

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

On Wednesday, the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) findings were published.

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Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull stated that pilot error was to blame for the crash.

He ruled 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’.

The Sheriff Principal stated 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”.

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However, Mr Crossan believes it is unfair that the blame is being put onto Captain Traill.

He said: “I sat through most of that FAI inquiry and from what I got from it, it was a design fault with the fuel system and it was fuel, fuel, fuel.

“To me, there is a big issue with the fuel system in these aircraft.”

In light of the safety recommendations made by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in 2015, the Sheriff Principal made no further recommendations.

Mr Crossan believes there should have been, stating: “There’s definitely a design fault, there’s a design fault with the system – it’s been proven, it’s a fact – and if they keep continuing with that design fault and they keep flying that aircraft with the design fault, it’s just a matter of time before we get another accident like that.”

He added: “Six years and people talk about closure, but I don’t think this gives it.

“I don’t even know what closure means to be honest with you, but I don’t think this gives anything like that to anybody. Not a thing.”

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Clutha crash survivor Mary Kavanagh, 65, lost her partner Robert Jenkins in the tragedy.

She managed to escape from the venue after the police helicopter plunged through the bar’s roof, but said the disaster continues to affect her life.

She told STV News: “It’s had tremendous impact on my life. I had to give up my work – I had a very responsible job, I just couldn’t go back to it.

“I’ve had vast periods of times where I haven’t been able to leave the house. I’ve had to go through therapy.

“It’s just made a tremendous difference to my life, and to the way to my life would have been.

“And I lost Robert – Robert’s not there.”

Aftermath: Emergency workers at the scene of the crash. Getty Images

Ms Kavanagh said the Clutha is where she feels close to Mr Jenkins.

She stated that the FAI findings do not bring her comfort.

Ms Kavanagh said: “I wasn’t surprised that the sheriff concluded that the accident was due to pilot error, but I’m also surprised that more wasn’t made of the fact that, for example, the helicopter was showing low fuel warnings but there was obviously enough fuel in the helicopter, and the fact that there have been issues with this type of helicopter.

“And that came out during the fatal accident inquiry. Actually, quite a lot came out in the fatal accident inquiry about the issues with the helicopters, and I’m surprised more wasn’t made of that.”

She does not believe Captain Traill was to blame for the crash and finds it “difficult to accept that a pilot who had so much experience would have made a mistake like that”.

She added: “Also, I find it difficult to accept that two trained observers weren’t shouting about the pilot if he was doing things wrong. So I find it really hard to accept that.”

Ms Kavanagh accepts that some of her questions over the incident will never be answered.

Of the report, she said: “I feel really heartbroken.

“This morning, just reading the little bit I did read with the determinations, my tears were running down my face. I just find it heartbreaking.”

The helicopter was operated by Bond Air Services, which is now owned by Babcock.

A spokesperson for Babcock said: “Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of those who lost their lives and those who were touched by the terrible events of that night.”

Dr Rob Hunter, head of flight safety at British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), added: “This was a tragic accident.

“The fatal accident inquiry has done a thorough job and it is clear that lessons must be learnt to address failings in people, machines and organisations, as is always the case following air accidents.

“That is how the industry continues to improve safety.”

In response to the FAI findings, assistant chief constable Mark Williams said: “We note the Sheriff Principal’s determination and are studying its contents.

“The thoughts of everyone at Police Scotland remain with the families and friends of all those, including our three colleagues, who lost their lives in the tragic accident almost six years ago.”


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