• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Salute to a hero

TEARFUL and heart-breaking tributes were yesterday paid to the pilot killed in the Glasgow helicopter crash by his father, fiancée and friends, as the first funeral of the nine victims of the Clutha tragedy took place.

Previous page: Representatives from the Royal Air Force, police and emergency services formed a guard of honour. Above: Family, friends and colleagues attended the service. The cortège was led by police outriders and a friend of David Traill, who rode the pilot's Harley-Davidson motorcycle to the servicePhotographs: Mark Mainz, Stewart Attwood

Captain David Traill, 51, was described as a "hero" and the "greatest friend a man could hope for" during the memorial service at Glasgow University's Bute Hall yesterday morning, which was attended by around 700 family and friends alongside representatives from the Royal Air Force, police and emergency services.

Traill flew helicopters for both Police Scotland and the Air Ambulance Service. It is thought his actions in the final seconds before the helicopter landed on the roof of the pub late on November 29 prevented many more deaths.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill were also present, along with Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House and Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson.

Traill died along with two police officers when the Police Scotland helicopter he was piloting crashed on to the roof of the crowded Clutha bar in Glasgow's Stockwell Street just over a week ago.

Six people also died inside the pub. Alan Crossan, the owner of the Clutha, also attended yesterday's funeral.

Police officers, air ambulance pilots and paramedics formed a guard of honour as Traill's coffin arrived at the university, with the cortège being led by police outriders and a friend of Traill, who rode the pilot's Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

During the service, poignant tributes came from his father, Iain, who sobbed as he read a David Harkins poem which contained the lines:

You can shed tears that he is gone

or you can smile because he has lived

The widower had read the same lines at the funeral of his younger son, Angus, three years ago, mourners were told.

Traill's father had moved in with his pilot son and his fiancée, Lucy, who lived in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, over the summer following an illness.

Traill, who is also survived by three nephews, was due to marry his partner whom he met on a blind date almost five years ago.

Glasgow University chaplain Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie said the service had been put together by Lucy and Traill's father to "tell the world about David, the man they love".

He read out a tribute from Traill's fiancée, in which she described him as the "best thing that ever happened to me" and told of their shared love of cycling, Scotland's west coast, fine dining, kayaking, Take That and "best of all", karaoke.

"It all seemed too perfect, but there was no catch, he just adored me and told me every single day," she said. "He brought me breakfast in bed every day and told me he was the luckiest man alive as he was holding the most beautiful girl in the world."

She also spoke of how Traill proposed to her during a champagne picnic on a Loch Lomond island near Luss, adding it was "the happiest day of my life".

During her tribute, Lucy told mourners: "A lot of you knew Dave as the consummate professional, or an inspirational pilot … He was all of those things, but really he was just a big kid who didn't take himself too seriously at all.

"On the morning that he died, he made me laugh so I hard that I was nearly sick. After cycling home from work one day last month he came down to sit with his dad and me for dinner - wearing his monkey 'onesie'. His dad laughed so hard that his false teeth fell out.

"He loved his family dearly, especially his three nephews."

She added: "I knew Dave only for four years and nine months and three days, but they were all precious. He was the most amazing, caring, loving, strong, capable, funny, creative, delicious and sexy boy in the whole world and I cannot even begin to imagine life without him.

"He had no idea how much he was loved by everyone; he had no idea how much he was respected. He had no idea he would die a hero."

The Ellie Goulding song How Long Will I Love You was played to mourners. In her tribute, Lucy described how her fiancée had texted the lyrics to her after he heard it on the radio last week and it had made him cry.

Traill, originally from Falkirk, was a former RAF pilot and instructor who served in both Gulf wars.

Since 2008, he had been employed by Bond Air Services and worked as a civilian pilot for the Glasgow-based Scottish Air Ambulance and Police Scotland.

Andy Rooney, a close friend from Traill's time in the RAF, told mourners: "David, Dave, Davey, Swampy - he was different things to different people and he touched many lives.

"But there was a consistency to him that few could match and many could envy. The calm he offered, the warmth with which he was received.

"He was the greatest friend a man could hope for. A steady, loyal brother in arms."

Rooney spoke of Traill's "long and illustrious military career" - but revealed to mourners that he did not like heights.

"He wasn't perfect … he was the only helicopter pilot who didn't like heights," Rooney said of Traill. "You could get him in a helicopter, but you could not get him up a set of ladders. He was a pilot who got air-sick - to be fair, this was mostly often fixed-wing planes.

"Additionally, you can't hide the fact that over the years he has sported an extremely dubious selection of moustaches and facial hair."

Rooney also spoke of Traill's ability as a "brilliant pilot and excellent flying instructor", which had enriched the careers and flying skills of many RAF helicopter pilots. Traill's talent was recognised, Rooney said, when he was selected to become a Chinook helicopter display pilot.

Rooney added: "The last five years Dave has worked here in Glasgow, flying both police aircraft and the Scottish Ambulance Service helicopters based in the city.

"There is absolutely no doubt that in flying both aircraft he contributed to saving innumerable lives. He will leave an enormous gap in our lives - but he would want us to smile and live on."

Another friend read a poem called Impressions In Flight, which includes the lines:

Should my end come while I am in flight

Whether brightest day or darkest night

Spare me no pity and shrug off the pain

Secure in the knowledge that I'd do it again

THE chaplain told mourners that he was sure Traill's skills as a pilot with more than two decades' experience had prevented the loss of further lives on the ground when the helicopter crashed on to the roof of the Clutha pub.

MacQuarrie said: "David died in tragic circumstances when the helicopter he was flying plunged to the ground with little or no warning.

"From what I've learned in the last few days of this brave and courageous man, I'm absolutely certain that David would have done absolutely everything he could to safeguard his colleagues in the aircraft and people who were on the ground.

"I'm convinced that David's skills and experience indeed minimised the loss of life on the ground."

At the end of the 55-minute service, MacQuarrie invited mourners to sing along - "loudly and badly", in tribute to Traill's love of karaoke - to the Proclaimers song Life With You, which Traill and Lucy had planned to play at their wedding, possibly as their first dance.

There was laughter as he added: "This is our chance to show the world the truth in the saying that there is more fun at a Glasgow funeral than there is at an Edinburgh wedding."

Traill's coffin was carried out of the hall accompanied by a piper who played Flower Of Scotland.

Earlier Traill's employer, Bond Air Services, had paid tribute to the pilot in a statement. It read: "His untimely death has been deeply felt by his family, friends and colleagues who mourn his passing with a sense of intense loss and sorrow.

"Dave Traill was an esteemed colleague, a legend amongst his peers and, above all, everyone's friend. We will miss him."

Prayers were also said at the service for the eight others who died in the crash, and mourners were invited to make a donation to the fund set up to help the families of the victims and those who were injured.

Police Constables Kirsty Nelis, 36, and Tony Collins, 43, were on board the helicopter. The six who died inside the pub were Robert Jenkins, 61, Mark O'Prey, 44, Colin Gibson, 33, John McGarrigle, 57, Gary Arthur, 48, and Samuel McGhee, 56.

Investigations into the cause of the helicopter crash are still ongoing. On Friday night, police revisited the scene of the tragedy and renewed an appeal for witnesses to come forward.

Detectives said the helicopter had flown to the Gorbals area of the city at around 8.47pm that evening before travelling east. It was in the sky above Dalkeith in Midlothian at around 9.20pm before returning to Glasgow over Bothwell and Bargeddie.

It was seen over Shettleston at around 10.20pm, five minutes before it dropped out of the sky near the River Clyde.

The public have been asked to send in any photographs or footage of the helicopter.

A preliminary report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch could be released within the next few days, but the full findings are not expected for several months.

Contextual targeting label: 
Transport Tragedy

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.