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Clutha helicopter crash inquiry hears emotional tributes from victims' families

Moving tributes from relatives of the victims of a police helicopter crash have been heard on the first day of a fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

The pilot, two crew members and seven customers in the Clutha bar in Glasgow were killed when the Police Scotland aircraft crashed on to the roof of the building on November 29, 2013.

Sheriff principal Craig Turnbull led a minute's silence ahead of the tributes in a temporary court at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

Pub customers Mark O’Prey, Gary Arthur, John McGarrigle, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins, Samuel McGhee and Joe Cusker died, while pilot David Traill and crew Tony Collins and Kirsty Nelis were also killed in the crash.

Mary Kavanagh's partner Robert Jenkins died on the night of the crash. Credit: ITV News

Mary Kavanagh, Robert Jenkins' partner, was in the bar that night and knows the full impact it has had on her and many others since.

"It's something that should never had happened and it's something that because it did happen changed my life completely and I would say the lives of everybody who was in that pub that night," Ms Kavanagh told ITV News.

Ms Kavanagh believes the investigation so far has lacked transparency and hopes the inquiry will change that.

"What I want more than anything is any answers that come out of the inquiry to be honest answers and the fatal accident inquiry to be transparent."

The wreckage of the helicopter was lifted clear following the crash. Credit: PA

Personal statements about some of those who died were read out in tribute to them.

A tribute was read for victim Mr Jenkins, which told of the pain his partner Ms Kavanagh had suffered after being at the pub on the fateful night.

It said: "They had only been in the bar for 40 minutes when tragedy struck.

"All Mary Kavanagh wants to know is why she went in that bar with the man she was t spend the rest of her life with and came out alone."

Kerry McGhee described her father Samuel McGhee as a hard worker who was "very sociable" with "many friends".

A statement from Colin Gibson’s family said: "If you were lucky enough to meet him, you knew you had as he left a lasting impression on you."

The sisters of Gary Arthur told the inquiry in a statement: "Nothing will ever bring our brother back but hopefully we will finally be given the chance to find closure.

"We want to remember Gary as a much-loved person and not just a victim of the Clutha."

Mark O’ Prey’s father, Ian, described his son as "wonderful" who died at a venue the whole family would frequent.

He added: "I had three children, now I only have two daughters.

"He was a wonderful son who loved life and lived it to the full.

"I only hope this hearing arrives at some truth and I wish it well."

The fatal accident inquiry into the Clutha disaster, in which 10 people were killed, began on Monday morning. Credit: PA

The first person to give evidence was witness Andrew Bergin.

The 30-year-old solicitor from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, told how he was walking by the riverside on the night in question.

He said of the helicopter: "It made what I can only describe as a spluttering noise. It wasn’t any lower than I would have seen it before.

"It seemed to immediately lose height as soon as the spluttering occurred.

"Everything happened more or less at the same time."

Brian Stewart, 50, was on Dyer’s Lane when his attention was drawn to the helicopter.

The electric production operator from Glasgow said: "I had heard a noise coming from it. It was kind of like when you stall your car when you have it in the wrong gear and it struggles, kind of like that.

"The engine started cutting. It happened a couple of times then it fell behind the building in front of me on Turnbull Street.

"That’s where I last seen it."

Ten people died after a police helicopter crashed through the roof of the Clutha pub in Glasgow. Credit: PA

Ernest Doherty had finished work walking along Buchanan Street when a sound from above grabbed his attention.

He was the final eye witnesses to give evidence to the inquiry.

The 64-year-old from South Lanarkshire said: "It made a sound like an old car trying to start, but trying to start 1,000 times louder.

"As I looked up above the buildings of the Briggait I saw the helicopter come down passing the church."

The purpose of the FAI is to determine the cause of the deaths, establish whether they could have been prevented and enable the sheriff to make recommendations which could prevent fatalities in similar circumstances.

The inquiry is taking place at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Credit: PA

More than 100 people were at the Clutha Vaults pub when the helicopter, returning to its base on the banks of the River Clyde, crashed through the roof.

An Air Accidents Investigations Branch (AAIB) report published in 2015 found two fuel supply switches were off and the pilot did not follow emergency procedures after a fuel warning in the cockpit.

The Crown Office has previously said there is insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings.

Fifty-seven Crown witnesses are expected to give evidence at the inquiry, down from a previous estimate of 85.

Police have taken more than 2,000 statements as part of preparations for the FAI, while the Crown has around 1,400 productions.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday.