Families Of Clutha Victims 'Deserve Answers'

23 October 2015, 11:06 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

Clutha Pub Glasgow

Families of the Clutha victims deserve answers, Scotland's prosecution service said.

A Crown Office spokesman said: "We welcome the publication today of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch report into the Clutha tragedy.

"However, the report raises a number of questions for which the families of the victims deserve answers. The Crown will now conduct further investigations into some of the complex issues raised by the AAIB report. We will endeavour to do this as quickly as possible but these matters are challenging and the necessary expertise is restricted to a small number of specialists. We will continue to keep the families advised of progress with the investigation.

"As this tragedy involves deaths in the course of employment a Fatal Accident Inquiry is mandatory. This will be held as soon as is possible. An FAI will allow a full public airing of all the evidence at which families and other interested parties will be represented. It is right that the evidence can be vigorously tested in a public setting and be the subject of judicial determination.

"Our thoughts remain with all of the victims and the families affected by this terrible incident.''

AAIB chief inspector Keith Conradi said: "Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragic accident. The AAIB is independent, tasked with investigating the causes of accidents to prevent recurrence and help make aviation safer.

"We do not apportion blame in our reports. We have made a series of safety recommendations in this final report including that European and British civil aviation regulators require all police and medical helicopters to carry flight recording equipment.''

Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: "Our thoughts and sympathies remain with the families and friends who lost loved ones in such terrible circumstances following the incident at the Clutha Bar in Glasgow.

"The crash had a profound effect on our communities and the desire for answers to what happened and why is entirely understandable.

"Since the crash, Police Scotland has been carrying out an extensive major investigation under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

"Today's publication of the report by the AAIB contains a large amount of technical detail and is a significant milestone. The AAIB's findings will now be considered by Police Scotland's investigation team and the Crown.''

Helicopter operator Bond said: "Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives, and those who were touched by the tragic accident at the Clutha Bar on 29th November
 2013.  Today's AAIB report is an important step in the process of understanding the terrible events of that night, although some questions remain unanswered.

The AAIB has made no specific recommendations for Bond, but we are studying the report and will continue to work with others, including the manufacturer and regulators, to learn from its findings."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Our thoughts continue to be with the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the Clutha tragedy. I had previously called for this report to be made public as soon as possible and I therefore welcome the fact that has now happened.

"However, it is deeply disappointing that after two years of investigation the report does not reach a clearer conclusion - indeed in some respects, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.

"I therefore share the disappointment of the families that it does not provide the closure they sought and hope that the FAI that the Crown Office has now said will happen as soon as possible, can help the families get the answers they seek.''

Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: "The Scottish Government once again offers its deepest condolences to those who lost family and friends in the events at the Clutha bar.

"I welcome the fact that an FAI will be held as soon as possible and I urge the UK Government to ensure the Civil Aviation Authority implements the report's recommendations swiftly.

"Any steps that could help prevent another tragedy like this one must be taken.''

The families are said to have been left "angry and frustrated'' at the "lack of answers'' provided by the report.

Jim Morris, a former RAF pilot and specialist aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, which represents 17 people affected by the crash, said there is a clear a need for flight data recorders on helicopters.

He said: "The lack of a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (black box) has had a significant impact on the AAIB's efforts to investigate the Clutha tragedy. This sadly leaves the victims angry and frustrated that there are still so many questions which may never be answered.

"We will now be continuing with our campaign to get black box data recorders fitted to all commercial passenger helicopters and feel that this report and its recommendations send out a clear message that now is the time for action.

"There are several safety recommendations in the report including the fitting of flight data recorders to more helicopters and it is vital that these are taken seriously if flight safety is to be improved.''

On the issue of the fuel switches he said: "There are effectively two fuel pumps to transfer fuel from the main tank to the engines supply tanks. One of these should be on at all times but at the time of the crash both were switched off, meaning the supply tanks fuel became exhausted and caused the double flame out, despite there being 76kg of fuel in the main tank. We may never know why both pump switches were off because of a lack of flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

"This was a highly qualified and experienced former RAF helicopter pilot who was assessed as 'above average'. He should have been able to competently deal with fuel management, low fuel and emergency procedures.

"The report suggests that he had acknowledged low fuel warnings, but the AAIB could not establish why he did not complete the low fuel actions in the pilot's checklist, so something simply doesn't add up.

"The crucial real-time evidence from a flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder would have enabled the investigators to reconstruct in far more detail what the pilot and helicopter were actually experiencing and the sequence/ timing/reasons for the events that occurred.

"Our focus is on ensuring those who lost loved ones in the crash and those who suffered injuries get the help and support they still need at this most difficult time. It has been a tough week for the Clutha crash victims and those we have spoken to generally feel incredibly disappointed that they may never know exactly what went wrong.''

Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty said: "Almost two years since the Clutha tragedy, I am acutely aware that bereaved families and friends are struggling to cope.

"They are in our thoughts and prayers as they express disappointment and frustration at their questions not being adequately answered. The council's major incident support team will be available to anyone seeking assistance.''

Andrew Henderson, partner at Thompsons Solicitors which represents 40 victims including the families of some of those who lost their lives, said: "After nearly two years of waiting, the families of the bereaved and those who were injured have been given some answers into the cause of the accident.

"It would appear that a major factor in the aircraft crashing was fuel starvation. It remains unclear as to why fuel transfer switches were turned off and why low fuel warnings were not heeded.

"This of course will lead to victims and the public asking why this happened. I believe these questioned need to be answered and I warmly welcome the announcement by the First Minister that the Crown Office will convene a Fatal Accident Inquiry as quickly as possible.

"At the end of the day we cannot have a situation where aircraft crash into urban areas causing loss of life and not know definitively why that happened. Only by knowing the full cause can we prevent something similar happening.''

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Scotland Secretary David Mundell said: "Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of those killed in this tragic accident. We welcome publication of the final report into the Clutha helicopter accident and thank the AAIB for their diligent and painstaking investigation.''