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Ex-Scottish Labour leader wonders if he did enough to help at Clutha crash site

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A former Scottish Labour leader has said he still asks himself whether he did enough when he ran to help victims after a helicopter crashed into a pub 10 years ago.

Three crew members and seven customers died when the Police Scotland aircraft fell on to the roof of the Clutha bar in Glasgow on November 29 2013.

Jim Murphy, a former Scottish Secretary, had just parked nearby while on a night out and went to help when a passer-by alerted him, though he was initially told the helicopter had crashed into the river Clyde.

In his first interview since the tragedy, he described how he he was part of a human chain to get people out of the pub and helped the injured.

He told the BBC: “When I got to the pub I saw people, not a huge number of people but some people, outside the pub and I thought: ‘Wonder what’s going on there?’

“And it’s only at the point I saw something sticking out the roof and realised that the helicopter hadn’t crashed into the Clyde but had actually crashed into the top of the pub.

“I think what struck me was it was a very cold night and the scene was really quiet. Bearing in mind what had just happened it was really eerily quiet.”

Mr Murphy stressed that there was a “group of other people who did exactly as I did, which was run towards trouble.”

He and others managed to pull some survivors out of the pub, though debris was blocking the door.

In the interview, to be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme later on Wednesday, he said: “Somehow there was a woman that everyone managed to pull out of this space and there was a small sort of human chain that we just passed this women along.

“I remember putting her on the ground and thinking ‘I haven’t put her in the recovery position’.”

He added: “The abiding memory I have is: ‘Did you do enough? Could you have done more?’

“But I have no first aid qualifications and these are the benefits of thinking a decade later rather than in the spontaneous seconds that you have on the night.”

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the tragedy found in 2019 that the helicopter crashed into the pub after the pilot “consciously took a risk” and ignored low fuel warnings.

It concluded the helicopter’s engines flamed out sequentially while it was airborne, as a result of fuel starvation due to depletion of the contents of the supply tank.

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch report published in 2015 found two fuel supply switches were off and the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning in the cockpit.

Mr Murphy, who at the time of the crash was Labour MP for East Renfrewshire, said this is the only interview he has ever given about the night because “the people who should speak about this are the survivors and the families of those who lost a loved one”.

Ten years on, he says that he often thinks about the tragedy and wonders what more he could have done.

He said: “I think about why didn’t I do more? I think about why didn’t I climb on to the roof of the pub and try and help people who obviously would still have been in the helicopter,” he said.

“I think, reflecting back, my abiding emotion would be: ‘You should have done more’.

“I drive past the pub and whenever I do that’s what I think. What more should I have done?”

Stephen Wright, head of service delivery for the west region in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said the events of that evening still resonate with everyone involved, particularly on the anniversary.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: “When I first got the call it was almost one of disbelief, it didn’t make sense to hear of an aircraft – the fire and rescue service often deal with aircraft incidents but they tend to be in that more, rural, isolated location with fewer people involved.

“To hear that this was a helicopter that had crashed into a building, and not just a building, a public bar with unknown large numbers of people within, in that city centre environment, on a Friday night.

“It was very, very strange and didn’t feel real. It wasn’t almost until you arrived at the incident that you realised the magnitude of what we faced.”

He said for crews arriving it was “chaotic at that time” and that “these type of incidents absolutely remain with you”.

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