Glasgow Archbishop Philip Tartaglia has spoken of the moment he discovered that a police helicopter had plunged through the roof of the Clutha Vaults Pub near his cathedral, killing at least nine people.
“I was just about to turn in last night and – you know the way the television is on and you are not quite listening – and I just saw this flash and the picture came up and I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s Glasgow,’” he said during his homily at a special Mass on Saturday at St Andrew’s Cathedral.
He said he recognised Clutha Vaults Pub, which he often drove past because it was just 400 meters from the cathedral.
Archbishop Tartaglia said the Scottish city was in mourning because of the deaths. The tragedy struck late on Friday, on the eve of the feast of St Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint. Witnesses said the helicopter “fell like a stone” through the roof of the pub, which held an estimated 120 people. Six of those people were killed and more than 30 were injured.
David Trail, the pilot of the helicopter and a former Royal Air Force pilot who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was also killed along with Kirsty Nelis and Tony Collins, the two police officers with him. Investigators were still trying to establish the cause of the crash.
On Saturday, Archbishop Tartaglia asked priests from the cathedral parish to offer assistance to the injured and to grieving families.
“My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this tragic accident,” he said in a statement, adding that prayers would be offered “for everyone, especially for those who have died, for the injured, and for the bereaved.”
“May the gentle presence of Jesus comfort us all at this difficult time,” he said.
On Monday, Archbishop Tartaglia toured the site and spoke to emergency workers and viewed floral tributes to the victims. On the same day Pope Francis sent a message to Archbishop Antonio Mennini, papal nuncio to Great Britain, expressing his closeness to the people of Glasgow.
“I assure you of my prayers for those who have tragically lost their lives or have been injured as well as their relatives,” the message said. “May the Lord grant eternal rest to those who have died and comfort their relatives and the entire community of Glasgow in these moments of distress and sadness.”