Sister pleads: ‘Don’t blame David’ for Clutha crash’

David Traill was piloting the police helicopter which crashed into the Clutha Bar in Glasgow
David Traill was piloting the police helicopter which crashed into the Clutha Bar in Glasgow

The half-sister of Clutha helicopter pilot David Traill claims the RAF veteran’s memory is being sullied following the publication of a recent report.

Now two years on an Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report has provoked an angry reaction from David’s relatives.

The report states the Police Scotland Eurocopter EC 135’s audible low fuel warning was acknowledged by David five times and guidelines say he should have landed within ten minutes – something he did not do.

According to the report, there were over 30 seconds between the first engine flaming out and the second, but the single engine emergency shutdown checklist was not completed in that time.

The Crown Office is now launching a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the incident.

Evelyn Holmes Mitchell, of Holytown, Lanarkshire, believes the AAIB report seems to indicate her half brother was at fault and was being blamed for the tragedy.

Writing on her Facebook page she stated: “The veiled allegation my brother was the cause of the Clutha crash that killed another nine, left many injured and more emotionally wounded is totally unacceptable.

“David would not only have done everything in his power to save his companions and others but had the years of flying and teaching to make sure such a thing would not happen.

“It would break my heart to allow them to sully his memory and make this doubt his legacy to his nephews, niece and broader family. David was a wonderful pilot and man.

“The blame for this does not lie with David.”

David’s father Iain has now moved away from his home in Allandale Road, Larbert. The Falkirk Herald spoke with his former neighbour on Tuesday and she said he had left the premises to be with his family in Lochwinnoch, Ayrshire, where David was living before the Clutha incident.

She said neighbours in the street knew David well and were all proud of his achievements in the RAF and in his later career.

The pilot logged 5592 hours flight experience and served in the Gulf War and Iraq War before taking on a flying post with Police Scotland contractors Bond Air.

His skill as a pilot was praised at his funeral service on December 7, 2013, when he was remembered as a “hero of foreign conflicts” and a “leader of men” who helped to save “innumerable lives” by flying aircraft for Police Scotland and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The first of the Clutha victims to be laid to rest, David was mourned at the University of Glasgow’s Bute Hall by his fiancée Lucy, father Iain and 500 others including then deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon, then justice secretary Kenny MacAskill and Police Scotland chief constable Stephen House.

The service also heard from Andy Rooney, one of David’s former RAF colleagues, who paid a warm tribute to “the greatest friend a man could hope for, a steady, loyal brother in arms”.

The AAIB report, which recommended all police helicopters should be equipped with black box flight recording equipment, was also criticised this week by the Scottish Government for not providing more conclusive answers.

Falkirk West MSP and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Our thoughts continue to be with the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the Clutha tragedy. I had previously called for this report to be made public as soon as possible and I therefore welcome the fact that has now happened.

“However, it is deeply disappointing after two years of investigation the report does not reach a clearer conclusion. Indeed in some respects, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.

“I therefore share the disappointment of the families it does not provide the closure they sought and hope the FAI the Crown Office has now said will happen as soon as possible can help the families get the answers they seek.

“I urge the UK Government to ensure the Civil Aviation Authority implements the report’s recommendations swiftly. Any steps that could help prevent another tragedy like this one must be taken.”