Nine people were killed when a police helicopter crashed through the roof of a packed Glasgow pub, the Clutha, as a band was in full flow on Friday evening last week.
The accident highlighted the solidarity of ordinary people. But it also showed the risks of cutting services.
Over 100 people were in the pub at the time. Fatima Uygun told Socialist Worker, “I was terrified when I heard the news. I know two of the Clutha workers who were injured, one badly. They are recovering now.
“People were quickly removed and taken to hospital. That was thanks to the selflessness of people in the pub and those who ran to the scene—and the firefighters and ambulance crew.”
The six people in the pub who died have been named as Robert Jenkins, Mark O’Prey, Colin Gibson, John McGarrigle, Gary Arthur and Samuel McGhee.
The three crew in the helicopter who died were named as pilot David Traill, and police officers Kirsty Nelis and Tony Collins.
Hundreds of emergency services workers were at the scene of the crash within minutes.
A statement from the firefighters’ FBU union in Scotland said, “In addition to the Clutha Bar rescue incident firefighters dealt with a level 2 incident in Pitt Street and multiple rescues at a fire in Broad Street in the city.”
Scottish organiser of the FBU John McFadden told Socialist Worker, “It was a really traumatic experience for all who responded to the tragedy.”
While events like that at the Clutha are extraordinary, having several other incidents in the city on the same night is common. John said, “We had a good prompt response but we were stretched on the night with the other two incidents.”
He added, “We are facing a big funding gap in the next few years because of austerity. Across the board cuts could mean the difference between someone surviving or not.”
Scotland’s eight former regional fire brigades have been merged into one as budgets are slashed by £45 million in the next few years.
The accident at the Clutha underlines how vital public services are, particularly emergency fire and health services—savaging them with cuts makes no sense.
There were acts of solidarity in the aftermath. Health workers flooded into work on Friday night although they were not due to go on shift.
Queues of people also donated to blood banks the next day.
Some Glasgow taxi drivers offered free transport to the hospital for anyone who couldn’t afford to get there to visit the injured.
Glasgow Central Mosque, located directly across the river, immediately offered its support. And the hotel opposite quickly became a place for rescue teams to set up a base.
Willie Boyle is a Clutha regular. He told Socialist Worker, “On Saturday night all the regulars came together at the Scotia, a nearby pub, to check everyone was OK—two of our friends were missing. We feared the worst.”
The Clutha itself is no stranger to solidarity. As Willie said, “It’s always had a real community atmosphere and quite a left wing culture around it.
“If you weren’t politically active yourself, you knew somebody that was. The people that ran it would always offer free solidarity soup and sandwiches to strikers.”