Eight people have been killed when a police helicopter crashed onto a busy Glasgow pub, plunging through the roof of the packed bar.
Fourteen are seriously injured in hospitals across Scotland’s biggest city after the chopper smashed into The Clutha pub on Friday night, where well over 100 revellers had been watching a band play on.
The Queen said her prayers were with the victims while Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond called it a ‘‘black day’’ as emergency service workers scoured the rubble of the single-storey building looking for survivors.
Rescue workers examine the wreckage of a police helicopter which crashed onto the roof of the Clutha Vaults pub. Photo: Reuters
While Scotland should have been celebrating its national day, instead worried friends and relatives spent St Andrew’s Day praying their loved ones were not among the fatalities, who have not yet been named.
Flags at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh flew at half-mast while a minute’s silence was held ahead of a football match between Falkirk and Glasgow side Rangers.
Chief Constable Stephen House said the two officers and the civilian pilot aboard the police helicopter and five people inside The Clutha were dead.
Picture taken with permission from Jan Hollands Twitter feed JanHollands@Janney_h of the helicopter crash at the Clutha Bar in Glasgow. Photo: Jan Hollands
‘‘You can imagine the terror of the situation when a helicopter came through the top of the building,’’ he said.
House says the rescue mission is complex and will take time, adding that he doesn’t know if there are more people trapped inside.
‘‘We are dealing with a very sensitive investigation and operation here. It will go on for many days yet,’’ Scotland’s police chief told reporters at the scene.
A regular at the Clutha pub reacts to the crash site. Photo: Reuters
‘‘Imagine the situation where the helicopter has come down and is almost literally sitting in the middle of the building. Until that is resolved, we can’t know everything that is inside.’’
Thirty-two people were taken by ambulance to three hospitals following the incident, which took place at 10.25pm local time.
Witnesses say the helicopter dropped like a stone, while people inside the bar heard a heavy thud before the roof caved in and the air filled with dust and screams.
Clutha Vaults pub: a police cordon has been erected around the site of the crash. Photo: AP
After pubgoers and passers-by did what they could to get the wounded to safety, emergency services worked through the night in a bid to recover people from the wreckage.
Now covered by a tarpaulin, one of the Eurocopter EC135 T2’s rotor blades could be seen jutting out of the roof at a jagged angle.
People stood at the cordon 30 metres back, their hopes fading by the hour for missing friends and loved ones.
Firefighters said they had made "some contact" with an unknown number of people in the wreckage of the one-storey building, which was "very unstable".
"It's a case of working hard within the building to try and determine how many casualties are there," Fire brigade officer Lewis Ramsay told reporters.
"We are determined that we are going to get the building stable and we will be in there to carry out those rescues."
Ramsay said the 125 firefighters at the scene had "rescued numerous casualties" who had "multiple types of injuries".
Police officer Rose Fitzgerald said it was too early to say why the Eurocopter EC135 helicopter crashed.
It appears that no Australians were in the Glasgow pub at the time of the incident.
‘‘We are not aware of any Australians involved,’’ a spokeswoman for the Australian High Commission in London said.
‘‘We remain in contact with the Scottish authorities.’’
Witnesses told of confusion, terror and then bravery after the accident.
Grace MacLean, who was inside at the time of the crash, told BBC News that the revellers were listening to a Ska band at the time.
"We were all just having a nice time and then there was like a 'whoosh' noise - there was no bang, there was no explosion," she said.
"And then there was some smoke, what seemed like smoke. The band were laughing and we were all joking that the band had made the roof come down.
"They carried on playing and then it started to come down more and someone started screaming and then the whole pub just filled with dust. You couldn't see anything, you couldn't breathe."
The band, Esperanza, later said on their Facebook page that they were all well.
Jim Murphy, a Labour party member of parliament and spokesman for international development, told the BBC he was driving through the area soon after the incident.
"I jumped out and tried to help. There were people with injuries. Bad gashes to the head. Some were unconscious. I don't know how many," he said.
He said he and other people formed a human chain to get survivors out.
"The helicopter was inside the pub. It's a mess. I could only get a yard or two inside. I helped carry people out."
The pub is near Glasgow Central Mosque, the largest Muslim place of worship in Scotland. The mosque said it would make its premises and volunteers available to help if needed.
Gordon Smart, editor of the Scottish edition of Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper, said he saw the helicopter coming down.
"It was just such a surreal moment. It looked like it was dropping from a great height at a great speed. I'm about 80 per cent sure that it was a police helicopter," he told Sky News.
"There was no fireball and I did not hear an explosion. It fell like a stone. The engine seemed to be spluttering."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "My thoughts are with everyone affected by the helicopter crash in Glasgow - and the emergency services working tonight."
AFP with Manuel Mitternacht