Scottish helicopter crash: Grim search yields 9th body

GLASGOW, Scotland - Police in Scotland say they will need several days to clear the wreckage of a helicopter that plunged into a bustling Glasgow pub over the weekend as they announced a ninth victim had been found at the site.

A crane gingerly lifted bits of debris from the roof of the the downtown Clutha Bar on Sunday, and authorities fear more remains will be discovered in the process.

"The operation at the site is difficult and complex and great care and sensitivity is required in order to preserve the integrity of the site which is part of our investigation," Police Scotland said in a statement Sunday afternoon.

The Clutha Bar was packed with about 150 people listening to a band Friday night when the crash occurred. Twelve of the 32 people hurt remained in hospitals across Glasgow on Sunday, and the body of another victim was found late Sunday morning, police said. The remains of the latest victim had not yet been identified.

Fatalities in helicopter, pub

Far more people would have been endangered just a short walk away in Glasgow's central shopping district, said Gordon Smart, editor of Scottish Sun newspaper.

From a nearby parking deck, Smart watched the helicopter tumble into the bar.

He waited for an explosion and fireball, but there was an "eerie silence" instead, he said.

A blast might have killed hundreds in the busy area, Smart said.

"It's a miracle that more people didn't die," he said.

The outcome was still grim: two police officers and a civilian pilot killed, and six others dead in the pub. Among the victims was Gary Arthur, the 48-year-old father of Chloe Arthur, who plays for the Celtic Football Club based in Glasgow.

"RIP dad. You'll always mean the world to me, I promise to do you proud," she tweeted. "I love you with all my heart."

The soccer team paid tribute to him and the other victims of the crash.

"He was regularly seen at Celtic matches, watching his daughter," the club said in a statement. It was unclear whether he was in the pub or in the helicopter.

The recovery operation will continue for "many days," Chief Constable Stephen House of Police Scotland said. Police Scotland appealed the public for "any photographs, audio or video footage they have of the incident or surroundings areas."

'Fell from the sky like a stone'

Smart was on top of a six-story parking deck when he heard a gargling sound. It was "like a car running out of petrol but incredibly loud," he said.

"I looked around, and in front of me, between 500 feet and 1,000 feet in the air, I could see a helicopter in distress. And then suddenly it just completely lost power and fell from the sky like a stone and tumbled over, nose over tail."

From his vantage point in front of the pub, Smart could not see the helicopter after impact.

'What I did see, and it's something that will stick with me for the rest of my life, was Glaswegian people running toward the scene, not away from the scene. People running to help, not running away from what could have been a huge explosion," Smart said.

The head of the Scottish government, First Minister Alex Salmond, described it as a "black day for Glasgow and for Scotland." Saturday was St. Andrew's Day, Scotland's national day.

"As First Minister, it's a day we can take great pride in how we've responded to this extraordinary tragedy," he said.

Surreal quiet before alarm

The helicopter struck the pub as patrons listened to the Esperanza band, which had just taken the stage. Patrons described a surreal quiet, followed by alarm.

"We were watching the band and there was kind of like a (roof) panel fell, there was a whoosh of dust," Grace Maclean said. "Then we laughed that the band said, 'We didn't think we were going to bring the roof down."

"No one had a clue," she said. "There was no explosion. No bang. It was really quiet."

But it quickly became apparent something was wrong, and amid the choking dust there was an outburst of noise from the patrons.

"Everyone was yelling (for) their friends," Maclean said.

Band manager Gary Anderson described his bewilderment when he heard "a loud bang followed by lots of debris, smoke, stuff coming coming towards where I was standing at the door."

People he knew pulled him outside into the street, he said, where he could see the rotor blades sticking out of the building's roof.

"There were people staggering out, there were lots of people coming out with blood pouring from their head and covered with all sorts of just debris from whatever it was had happened," he said.

In a Facebook posting, the band indicated that all its members made it out safe.

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