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10th Clutha victim dies as alert grounds helicopters

A TENTH person injured in the Clutha tragedy has died in hospital as a fresh safety alert over the Eurocopter EC135s used by emergency services sparked calls for a public inquiry into helicopter safety.

TRIBUTES: Joe Cusker, the tenth person to die in the Clutha tragedy, was described as 'dedicated, clever and kind'.
TRIBUTES: Joe Cusker, the tenth person to die in the Clutha tragedy, was described as 'dedicated, clever and kind'.

Joe Cusker, 59, of Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary yesterday. He had suffered serious injuries when the aircraft operated by Police Scotland plunged on to the top of the packed Clutha bar in Glasgow on November 29, causing the roof to cave in.

His death takes the total number killed to 10, including seven customers who were inside the one-storey building when the incident happened at 10.25pm. The helicopter pilot and two police constables on board the aircraft also died.

Five people remain in hospital, with two being treated at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and three at the Queen Elizabeth Spinal Injuries Unit at the Southern General Hospital.

Geraldine Baird, 63, who served beside Mr Cusker, spoke of a "dedicated, clever, kind man" who had volunteered on the board of the Rutherglen and Cambuslang Housing Association for 10 years. She said: "Joe was a lovely person."He used to work with South ­Lanarkshire Council's housing department and he gave up his free time to volunteer. Joe helped make such a difference to Rutherglen and the community through his work. He was a dedicated, clever, kind man."

Mrs Baird added: "Joe recently retired from the council and had also resigned from the committee. He had all his retirement to look forward to."

Tom Greatrex, Labour MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, said he had met Mr Cusker through his voluntary work. "He was a committed and hard-working member and was also very well known in the area for his work," he said.

"It is a sad loss for the area. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

The cause of the helicopter crash remains a mystery after a preliminary report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it could find no evidence of major mechanical disruption to the aircraft's engines.

Yesterday Bond Air Services - which leases Eurocopter EC135s to the police and ambulance services across the UK - issued a safety alert grounding the fleet for almost 24 hours after a technical fault was detected on the fuel gauge of one of its aircraft.

The flight ban was lifted late ­yesterday afternoon, but prompted calls for answers from pilot and offshore workers' unions.

A spokesman for the British Airline Pilots' Association said: "Flight safety is best served when there is transparency and openness and these developments leave everyone asking 'Why?'.

"This grounding confirms our belief that a fundamental review about how helicopter operations are regulated is needed."

This was echoed by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, representing offshore workers. It said a public inquiry was needed to confront "a widespread and deep-seated concern over the whole issue of helicopter safety". The Clutha disaster followed a series of fatal ditchings of Super Puma aircraft in the North Sea.

Bond had earlier advised emergency services across the UK to ground their EC135s after an "indication defect" was reported on one of the aircraft during routine operations on Wednesday.

The Herald understands the fault was detected on a helicopter used by North West Air Ambulance in England after a warning light switched on. Investigations began on Wednesday night in conjunction with the German manufacturer, Eurocopter, and restrictions were lifted at 3.18pm yesterday with all EC135 police and air ambulance helicopters gradually returning to service.

The safety alert grounded Police Scotland's only helicopter - a new EC135 it received just a week ago as a replacement for the one destroyed in the

Clutha crash. Two aircraft operated by the Scottish Air Ambulance Service were also grounded.

A statement from Bond Air Services said: "Those aircraft confirmed as having no fault will return to service.

"We will continue to work with the manufacturer Eurocopter on any aircraft found with this fault, with the aim of resuming normal service as soon as it is safe to do so."

The recommendation to ground its EC135s was taken voluntarily by Bond, and is not linked to the findings of the AAIB's ongoing inquiry into the cause of the fatal crash in Glasgow on November 29.

The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed it had been notified about the decision but played no part in it.

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

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