Crash bodies released to families

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The bodies of the nine people who died when a police helicopter crashed into a pub are being released to their families.

First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed the development to MSPs at Holyrood four days after tragedy struck at the Clutha bar in Glasgow.

He spoke on a day in which politicians across the political spectrum again praised the solidarity and community spirit shown by the city following Friday night's fatal crash.

Both Mr Salmond and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg signed a book of condolence at Glasgow City Chambers, while Mr Clegg also visited the crash site and met emergency service workers and members of the community.

Comedian and actor Billy Connolly, who grew up in the city, visited the scene to lay a bouquet of flowers and spoke of his devastation at what happened.

More than 100 people were in the busy bar just before 10.30pm when the helicopter dropped out of the sky "like a stone", crashing through the roof of the building.

Six people inside the pub and the three people in the helicopter died as a result of the crash.

The people in the bar were Robert Jenkins, 61, Mark O'Prey, 44, 33-year-old Colin Gibson, John McGarrigle, 57, 48-year-old Gary Arthur and Samuel McGhee, 56. The crew members were pilot David Traill, 51, and officers Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43.

At the last update, 11 people were said to remain in hospitals across the city.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the incident, Mr Salmond said the authorities have allowed the release of the bodies of those who perished to their relatives.

He told MSPs: "The procurator fiscal has concluded his work to identify those who died, and authorised the release of their bodies to their families today.

"This will allow families, with the support and assistance of police family liaison officers, to make their funeral arrangements."

A fund to help bereaved relatives and survivors of the helicopter crash has been opened by the city council.

Mr Salmond confirmed that the Scottish Government would pay into the fund, matching the council's contribution, which is understood to be about £20,000.

The First Minister also called for the investigation into the crash to be carried out as quickly as humanly possible and said a preliminary report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) was expected within the next few days.

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the response to the tragedy ''made us humble and made us proud", while Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Scotland ''pulled together'' when faced with tragedy.

In Glasgow, the Deputy Prime Minister laid flowers at the memorial site near the crash scene.

Mr Clegg said later: "The city is united in sadness and grief but also united in very heartfelt sympathy for those affected by the terrible events on Friday night, and also united in unequivocal support for the exceptional job done by the emergency services who have worked tirelessly in very difficult circumstances, and have also had to mourn, or are mourning, the loss of their friends and colleagues."

Connolly laid flowers at the scene with a note that read ''Rest in Peace friends, Billy Connolly''.

The 71-year-old star, affectionately known as the Big Yin, performed in the pub as a musician and comedian.

He heard about the crash while in New York and wanted to pay his respects to those who died.

He told the Evening Times: "The Clutha was a good music pub. They didn't mind banjo players, which makes a change.

"I had many happy times in there. Glasgow has really risen to the occasion. I have never heard so many nice things about Glasgow."

He added: "I was devastated to hear of what happened, like anyone else. It was weird seeing it happening on TV while I was in New York.

"Everybody's talking about how well Glasgow coped. I was very, very proud to be a Glaswegian.

"The Clutha's got a very special place in my heart.''

The wreckage of the three-tonne Eurocopter was removed from the building yesterday and sent to the AAIB base in Farnborough, Hampshire.

Air accident investigators have said the helicopter pilot made no mayday call and no black box data recorder was on board.

The crash site is subject to a police investigation but management of the incident scene has been handed over to the city council.

The helicopter was owned and operated by Bond Air Services and leased to the Scottish Police Authority.

Tonight, Bond described the loss at the death of Captain Traill, one of its most experienced pilots and ''the epitome of the consummate professional''.

He was a former RAF pilot and instructor who served in both Gulf wars.

In a statement, Bond said: "Dave Traill was an esteemed colleague, a legend amongst his peers and above all, everyone's friend. Never short of a witty comeback, it went hand in hand with his dry sense of humour. Taken from us too early, he leaves behind a legacy of love, kindness and friendship. We will miss him."

The helicopter wreckage has arrived at its destination, according to reports. BBC Scotland said the aircraft arrived at Hampshire's Farnborough Airport, where the AAIB is based, earlier this evening.

The AAIB would not comment on the reported development.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Scotland today published details of the investigation process.

The information sheet on its website explains what has happened so far in respect of the investigation and outlines further expected steps, as well as the roles of all the investigating authorities involved in looking at what caused the crash to happen.

Elaine Taylor, head of the health and safety division at the Crown Office, said: "COPFS have responsibility for leading the investigation into any sudden and unexplained deaths in Scotland and deciding whether criminal proceedings or a Fatal Accident Inquiry should be held.

"The technical investigation currently being carried out by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch takes precedence over other inquiries as it is responsible for ensuring the safety of other aircraft. This inquiry is complex and detailed and is likely to be some time before it reports fully.

"In addition to this inquiry, Police Scotland will continue with its investigation working with other agencies to carry out a separate investigation. When these two investigations are complete the Crown Office will take a decision as soon as possible about whether criminal proceedings or a Fatal Accident Inquiry may be held."

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