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‘We pray for our city of Glasgow, which is in mourning today’

Archbishop of Glasgow joins priests in supporting the community this St Andrew's Day after police helicopter crashes into city centre Clutha Vaults pub, near St Andrew's Cathedral

Priests from the St Andrew’s Cathedral parish in Glasgow have been on hand during the rescue after last night’s Clutha Vaults helicopter tragedy, offering assistance to the injured and relatives.

Today Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow led the community at a Mass (above) on the feast of Scotland’s patron saint for all who have been involved.

“We pray for our city of Glasgow, which is in mourning today,” the archbishop said to the 300-strong congregation the day after a police helicopter crashed onto the roof of the Glasgow pub, claiming eight lives and injuring more than 32 people.

Police Scotland confirmed there were three people on board the helicopter, two officers and a civilian pilot. Police, firefighters and medical teams worked through the night after the helicopter drop of out the sky ‘like a stone,’ on to the roof of the Stockwell Street bar at 10.25pm last night, according to eyewitnesses. Glasgow mosque was used as a support and triage centre. Rescue workers remain at the scene and it is not known how many people are still trapped inside the pub.

First Minister Alex Salmond described this St Andrew’s Day as a ‘black day’ for Scotland, but praised the courage of those who rushed to the scene to help last night. Passersby are said to have formed a ‘human chain’ to pass unconscious victims out of the pub.

The Mass on St Andrew’s Day began at 1pm at St Andrew’s Cathedral at Clyde Street, just 400m from the crash site.

“I was distressed by the news of last night’s incident in central Glasgow near our Cathedral when a helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults Pub,” the archbishop said prior to the Mass. “My heart goes out to all those who have been affected by this tragic accident. Prayers will 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. St Andrew, patron of Scotland, pray for us.”

During the Mass the archbishop praised what he describes as the Christian spirit of ordinary Glaswegians who rescued people from the wreckage at the scene. Their actions exemplify Jesus’s teaching of ‘love your neighbour,’ Archbishop Tartaglia said. It may have been ‘a miracle’ that the helicopter did not explode and harm more people,’ he added.

Fr Jim Thomson, the chaplain of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said fire crew rescue efforts would have had added ‘poignancy’ because they were fighting to save members of a fellow emergency service in the downed police helicopter.

Anas Sarwar, the local MP, spoke after the Mass.

“We are all Glaswegians today,” he said. “I have had phone calls from friends and colleagues from all parts of Scotland, whether it’s Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham or London, all saying that they feel our pain today.

“It is a massive sadness that you feel right across the city, but while we had the sadness, we also saw the best of Glasgow in the last 24 hours, people not running away from the scene but actually running to the scene to help their fellow Glaswegians. So a massive thank you to them.

Queen Elizabeth II has expressed her sympathy to those affected by the tragedy. Her Majesty said her ‘thoughts and prayers’ were with the victims of the crash. Mr Salmond has been at the scene of the accident and incident centre today and other political leaders have offered their condolences and support.

Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary for International Development and MP for East Renfrewshire, was in Glasgow and saw the accident happen. The Catholic MP, who played a major role in orgainising the 2010 Papal visit, ran to help out at the scene of the crash and was interviewed on television with blood on his clothes.

“Today my thoughts are with those who are affected by the Glasgow helicopter crash as well as the emergency staff who responded so quickly, bravely, and brilliantly and who are still at the scene,” he said this afternoon.

“Last night people did what is the human instinct and helped out until the emergency crews arrived. I did little in comparison to those others who did much more at the scene.”

Members of Esperanza, the band that was playing at the Clutha at the time of the crash said in a statement on their Facebook page this morning: “Waking up and realising that it is definitely horribly real. Despite the situation everyone was so helpful and caring of each other.”

Special prayers will be said and candles lit for the victims at a service at Glasgow Cathedral tomorrow. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will attend the service at 11am.

The management of the Clutha has posted a message on their Facebook page thanking members of the public for the messages of support they have received.

While an initial bulletin is expected to be issued soon by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) team, it could be some time before the exact cause of the accident is known and the AAIB is able to publish a full and detailed final report.







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