VIDEO

Helicopter crash casts pall over Scotland national day

Emergency services personnel inspect the rooftop of a pub where a police helicopter crashed in Glasgow on Nov 30, 2013. The pubs were festooned with flags for Scotland's Saint Andrew's Day festivities, but a day after a police helicopter made a fatal
Emergency services personnel inspect the rooftop of a pub where a police helicopter crashed in Glasgow on Nov 30, 2013. 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.  -- PHOTO: AFP

GLASGOW (AFP) - 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 Saint Andrew's Day, the national day of Scotland's patron saint, along with gaudy Christmas decorations.

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

Mr 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, Mr McKay was also a regular at the Clutha, whose popular live band performances meant it was always jam-packed at 10.30pm on a Friday (6.30am, Saturday Singapore time), when the accident happened.

"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 revellers were inside when the chopper crashed. As well as the eight confirmed dead, 14 people remain seriously injured, police said.

'You have to hope' ==================

Glasgow's council cancelled a traditional ceildih dance to celebrate Saint Andrew's Day in the central George Square. Scottish flags flew at half-mast over government buildings in Scotland's largest city.

A minute's silence was held ahead of a football cup match between Glasgow side Rangers and Falkirk.

As darkness fell in Glasgow on Saturday, hundreds of journalists and passers-by remained at the edge of the cordon - along with a few still waiting for news, be it good or bad.

A middle-aged woman, who did not want to be named, stood in tears hoping to hear from a friend who was drinking at the Clutha at the time of the crash.

"I just haven't been able to contact her," she said. "And now I'm fearing the worst. But what can you do? You have to hope."

Dozens of fire engines, ambulances and police cars continued to line a 50m stretch of Glasgow's River Clyde.

Officers had covered the remains of the helicopter with blue tarpaulin, but the outline of its rotors could be seen jutting out of the roof at jagged angles. A dozen bunches of flowers lined the wall of a hotel over the road.

'It's come at a terrible time' ==============================

Connor Chatterton, a 17-year-old student, had been out with friends nearby on Friday when he heard the whistle of the falling helicopter, followed by a huge bang.

"I heard it flying low, but I didn't think anything of it," he told AFP.

"They fly over Glasgow all the time. Then I heard this noise, like a 'pfft', and a big bang.

"This place is usually jumping," he added. "But tonight it's just dead." In the nearby shopping centre, Glaswegians carried on with their Christmas shopping - but spoke of their shock at the disaster.

"I just couldn't believe it," said 73-year-old Rosemary Leydon as she rested her feet with a friend.

"The way it happened to people who were just having a night out ahead of Christmas - it's just dreadful. Your heart just goes out to the families.

"It's come at a terrible time - Christmas is coming, families will be having get-togethers about now."

Her friend Eileen Macintyre, 70, added: "The one thing we can be grateful for is that it didn't explode. Just imagine how much worse it would have been."

The Clutha was a well-known Glasgow nightspot, she added, beloved for its varied live music. "The wonderful thing was that it catered for all age groups," she said.

"There was jazz, rock music, bands for the young people.

"It would have been full of all sorts of people last night, just having a good time."