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Destroyed helicopter is lifted away amid silence

IT was marked with an eerie silence and a sense of poignancy.

DEVASTATION: The full scale of the carnage and recovery operation required.
DEVASTATION: The full scale of the carnage and recovery operation required.

Almost entirely smothered by a green tarpaulin, what was left of the Police Scotland helicopter which caused one of the worst British aviation disasters of recent times was slowly removed from the roof of Glasgow's Clutha bar and gingerly lowered to the street.

The wreckage was put on to a low loader lorry and quietly driven away to the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) base in Farnborough, Hampshire, for further inspection.

As what was left of the mangled Eurocopter EC 135 headed south, it was confirmed that the bodies of all nine of those known to have died in the crash had also been removed from the devastation.

As the ninth and last person to have died in the Glasgow helicopter disaster was recovered, the remains were escorted from the site though an informal guard of honour.

Firefighters, ambulance staff and police officers stood at both sides of the road and saluted as two private ambulances passed by.

The Clutha's owner Alan ­Crossan made an emotional ­tribute to the emergency services, to the brave customers who risked their lives to save others on that fateful night, and to the hundreds of people who have been in touch to offer help since the tragedy.

He was not at the pub at the time of the crash because he was recovering at home from a heart attack.

Two police officers and a ­civilian pilot who were in the aircraft died along with six people who were enjoying a night out at The Clutha in the heart of the city on Friday night.

Emergency services were making a final search of the debris inside the Clutha yesterday to make sure no more bodies were buried there.

David Goodhew, the Scottish fire and rescue service operation commander, the operation had been "very moving and very tragic" for the emergency service workers involved. "It has been a very, very stressful situation," he said

As bodies were taken away, two private ambulances and police motorcycle outriders left the site past a small village of white temporary tents used by the emergency services and AAIB experts, and through two ranks of uniformed firefighters, police officers and ambulance crew flanking the road.

A minute's silence was held in Glasgow's George Square at 6pm to mark the tragedy.

Families who were ­visiting the Christmas fair in the square, stopped to remember those who died, and rides and ice skating were halted while the silence was observed. A message on the big screen in the square said: "We continue to remember all of those affected by the tragedy at the Clutha bar."

Philip Tartaglia, the ­Archbishop of Glasgow, visited the crash site and said: "I can't imagine what it has been like.

"All we can do is offer our prayers for those affected.

"This is my end of town and I'm so ­gratified that so many Glaswegians showed the real spirit of Glasgow - that gives you real hope for the future."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon added a wreath to the hundreds of floral tributes placed at the site of the crash.

Chloe Arthur, the teenage daughter of Paisley victim Gary Arthur, 48, is a Celtic and Scottish women's footballer.

Lennon said: "It's very difficult for me to find the right words at this time for (the victims and families) but, on behalf of myself and the club and the Celtic support, we're all thinking of you and you're very much in our thoughts and prayers at this time."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael paid tribute to the courage and character of the people of Glasgow and signed a book of condolence at the council's headquarters.

Meanwhile, relatives have told of their frustration over at the time it has taken to recover their love ones.

John McGarrigle, whose father, also John, is thought to be among the dead, said: "What about the dignity for the human beings underneath that police helicopter?

"If they've got one out, they can get the rest out."

Relatives of missing Mark O'Prey said they believe that the recovery of the helicopter took precedence over the removal of bodies.

His sister said: "We just need to know. It's too long now, really."

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief officer David Goodhew said rescuers had been working in very confined spaces with the danger of potential further collapse in order to find bodies and remove the helicopter.

He said: "Crews have been tunnelling underneath the helicopter to try to find further casualties and remove those where necessary.

Once the wreckage was removed, crews were immediately put back into the building to complete their search, which took under two hours.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said crews have been working as quickly and safely as possible and that she understands the "frustration and the anguish" of people who are waiting for news.

She visited Scottish ­Ambulance Service staff in Springburn, Glasgow, to thank them for their response to the crash.

She said: "It is appropriate again to say how much all of us are thinking of those who have been bereaved.

"It is not possible to imagine the grief and the anguish that they are suffering.

"I hope it is of comfort to them that they know that the thoughts not just of the people across Glasgow but people across the country are with them."

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