Horror descended on Glasgow yesterday as an out-of-control bin lorry ploughed into Christmas shoppers, leaving six dead and eight injured.
The truck mounted a pavement crammed with pedestrians and careered into them before thundering towards the city’s main square where more people were hit.
Last night it was feared three members of the same family were among the dead, while witnesses said a baby in a buggy and young children were caught up in the chaos.
The vehicle finally stopped after slamming into the Millennium Hotel on George Square, next to the entrance of the city’s Queen Street Station, leaving a 200-yard trail of carnage behind it.
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The cause of the crash was still being investigated last night, but police have said it was not a terrorism-related incident, and ‘nothing more sinister’ than a fatal traffic accident.
Clearly dead victims lay in pools of blood, their Christmas shopping spilled on the pavements beside them, as screams filled the air. One minute the square was awash with last-minute gift-hunters and children enjoying a festive fun fair; the next, it was a disaster area.
Last night it was thought the lorry driver may have lost control after suffering a heart attack or a seizure. Some witnesses reported seeing him slumped over the wheel. He was among eight people taken to hospital, some of them reportedly seriously hurt.
The Glasgow City Council bin lorry had been travelling north on the city’s Queen Street at around 2.30pm when the driver appeared to lose control of it.
Witnesses said it mounted the pavement outside the Gallery of Modern Art, close to the iconic Duke of Wellington statue, hitting the first pedestrian, a woman in her twenties there.
It then appeared to accelerate, knocking people down ‘like skittles’, striking two women at a pizzeria and further people down the street.
Some were able to dive out of its path into shop doorways. But others did not even realise what was happening until it was too late.
The bin lorry then veered back onto the road and careered through red lights as it travelled past the enormous ferris wheel and merry-go-round at the western end of George Square. It also hit a silver taxi outside Queen Street station.
The truck is thought to have hit more people waiting to cross the road outside the Millennium Hotel before crashing into it and finally stopping.
The area was busy with shoppers and children heading to a Christmas funfair at the time.
Investigations into the incident are still in the very early stages, but one element experts will examine is how the vehicle travelled around 328 yards in an almost straight line before it came to rest.
‘We can confirm that six people have died as a result,’ said a Police Scotland statement.
‘Emergency services are currently at the scene.
‘Police have declared the scene a major incident.’
The force added: ‘Eight people receiving treatment for their injuries across three Glasgow city hospitals. We will update further when we can.’
All roads in the surrounding area were immediately sealed off and people were told to stay away from George Square, and to let their families know they were safe.
All of the casualties, including the lorry driver, were taken to the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Western Infirmary.
Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson, Local Policing Commander for the West, said investigations into what caused the crash were ongoing.
‘We can however confirm that this is not a terrorism-related incident,’ he said.
Last night, police continued to investigate the tragedy as emergency workers, their efforts poignantly lit by Christmas lights, began to clear up around the scene.
The lights in George Square were later switched off as a mark of respect.
Glasgow City Council said it had considered turning off the lights after the incident, but had been asked by police to leave them on to help illuminate work on the investigation.
A growing number of floral tributes were placed close to the crash site as well-wishers paid their respects to the dead.
Chief Inspector Mark Sutherland said: ‘We are going through the investigation stage to try to establish what happened. It’s too early to say when the lorry will be moved.
EERIE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN TRAGEDY AND BRAD PITT FILM
The tragedy bears a striking resemblance to a scene from Brad Pitt’s World War Z, which was filmed in Glasgow in 2011 only yards from where yesterday’s tragedy unfolded.
The zombie film includes a scene in which a bin lorry crashes into several cars as pedestrians scramble out of the way. The movie bin lorry careers along Cochrane Street, before coming to a stop on the corner of George Square.
The 2013 film – produced by and starring Pitt – saw the city centre play the part of Philadelphia. The film grossed nearly £350million.
The tragedy bears a striking resemblance to a scene from Brad Pitt’s World War Z
‘We will take our time to establish what happened but we will also try to clear the area as soon as we can.
‘The area is busy with shoppers so yes, it could always have been worse, but six people are dead and that’s very serious.’
At the time of the crash, the square had been filled with shoppers and families enjoying a Christmas ice rink and fairground. The attractions have now been closed, along with the rest of the square.
Witnesses reported seeing injured people strewn across the street as bystanders rushed to help them. Some have claimed the driver suffered a heart attack and had been seen slumped over the wheel, while others said he may have experienced some sort of seizure.
Police could not say whether the lorry driver was ill before the crash but said he is being treated at hospital.
Shopper Melanie Greig told Sky News: ‘The lorry just lost control, it just went along the pavement knocking people down like pinballs. There was a baby in a buggy, there were two little kids. It travelled for 150 or 200 yards.’
Police were unable to say if any children were among the casualties, but a spokesman said there had been families in the area at the time.
The incident, on the first day of the Christmas holidays, was witnessed by hundreds of people.
Mobile phone footage recorded loud screams as the vehicle ploughed its devastating path.
One witness, Shirin Abdyedner, 20, a trainee nurse, said: ‘We came down the street and there were people just lying everywhere. The lorry was crashed into the train station and there were people covered in white sheets.
‘There was a man lying with his bag of shopping beside him. He was dead.’
She added: ‘I’m a nurse and wanted to see if I could help people out but there was nothing I could do. There were just so many people lying in the street crying. I didn’t know what to do except cry. I was just crying.’
Another witness, Must Adama, was driving behind the bin lorry and saw the disaster unfold.
‘I thought he was indicating to pull over and get the bins but he wasn’t,’ she said. ‘He just went up into the pavement and hit the first girl, then kept going.
‘He just hit them all. I stopped and screamed and was crying. I wanted to help people but there was nothing I could do. He just kept going and hit more people. He must have been going about 40mph.’
Clearly traumatised, she continued: ‘I keep seeing it. If I sit I’ll see it. I feel sick. I want to be sick. I saw the people dead. They are dead.’
Business student Nicole MacLachlan saved the life of sister Ashley by pushing her out of the lorry’s path. ‘It will live with us for ever,’ she said.
Witness, Ewan Little, 15, was walking along the pavement when the lorry suddenly loomed behind him.
‘I felt something push my arm from behind,’ he said. ‘I had no idea what it was and then the person in front of me was on the ground. The lorry had come right up into the pavement and hit her, then it just kept going faster and hitting people.
‘One minute people were walking and then they were on the ground. There were people screaming and running to get out of the way.’
Shaking violently, he added: ‘If I had been just a bit in front it would have knocked me over. It was terrifying.’
A mother who was walking her two children fainted after she pulled the pram out of the lorry’s path with only a split-second to spare. Another young woman was seen staggering to her feet after being knocked down by the lorry. Then she collapsed again, bleeding profusely.
Student Reece Miller from Motherwell, Lanarkshire, spoke of seeing ‘lots of bodies’ on the ground. One woman, he said, was lying covered by a blanket while her family wept. He assumed she was dead.
Anjan Luthra, 23, who was getting his lunch in George Square when he saw the truck. He said: ‘It happened in seconds. I will never forget the bodies, they were so badly hurt and injured. They had been crushed, flattened by the lorry.
‘I caught a glimpse of the lorry driver, he was slumped to his left over the wheel.
‘There were men and women in the street, elderly people who would not have had time to get out of the way. There were children who were very distressed seeing it. There were people just sitting by the bodies crying. It was the worst thing I have seen. These were ordinary people going shopping and they didn’t make it home.’
Some shoppers rushed to the aid of victims and were performing CPR before the first ambulances arrived.
Within minutes, dozens of emergency vehicles were in attendance and many surrounding roads were closed.
David Lyon grabbed his girlfriend to get her out of the way of the lorry
Then, for many, the screams gave way to bewilderment, helplessness and trauma.
Comedian and writer Janey Godley was in Glasgow city centre doing her Christmas shopping like thousands of others when she witnessed the aftermath of the bin lorry crash.
The 53-year-old said she felt ‘horrific’ for the families of those caught up in the accident but praised the emergency services and the people of Glasgow.
Describing the scene at George Square, she said: ‘At the side of the pavement the traffic poles were absolutely flattened so I knew that a vehicle had mounted the pavement.
‘There were people on the ground being worked on by the emergency services.
‘There was a lot of debris and Christmas shopping scattered all around so it was quite a distressing sight for everyone.
‘As soon as I walked onto the scene I spoke to a shopkeeper who said a bin lorry had mounted the pavement and crushed a taxi so I knew immediately it was a road accident.’
She added: ‘It’s such a horrific, dense corner for that to happen.
‘In the background you had the (carnival) swing still going in George Square. It was a very surreal image.
‘People were on the road and their families will be distressed to know they were lying on the street but the emergency services were doing an amazing job.’
Ms Godley said: ‘This was the only day I could get out shopping and I don’t need my Christmas shopping now.
‘I genuinely have no interest in it, I don’t want to go Christmas shopping, but I am filled with the amazing spirit of the people of Glasgow.
‘When the police said everybody move, everybody moved.
‘What was touching was people went down the traffic and were telling all the buses and taxis, explaining that there had been an accident.
‘So Glasgow people rallied round immediately and that reinforced my love for my own city yet again. That’s who we are.’
The tragedy struck barely a year after the Clutha Bar helicopter crash in the city. Ten people died when a police helicopter crashed on to the roof of the pub on November 29 last year.
Referring to the helicopter crash, Ms Godley said: ‘My city has had another drama but my city will come through it.
‘My thoughts and respects are with the families tonight and big up to the emergency services who were there on the ground immediately.
‘It made me feel absolutely horrific and sad but still amazed that we as Glaswegians were there.’
Student Lewis Irvine, 17, said: ‘I was out doing my Christmas shopping and was walking across George Square when it happened.
‘The lorry went swerving along the road and it went up onto the pavement and went into a load of people. It must have hit at least half a dozen people. Then it went into the Millennium Hotel.
‘I could see the driver at the wheel. It looked like he was having a fit or something. There were bodies lying on the ground. It was awful.’
‘The people who were hit had no time to take evasive action. They had no chance. The lorry went straight into them and scattered them like skittles. It was awful.’
Eyewitness Joty Chopra, a 21-year-old student, said: ‘We were having lunch around the corner and heard a loud bang and came running out.
‘When we got to the scene there were three people lying on the floor – two of them were in a pool of blood.
He added: ‘The city centre has been packed today with Christmas shoppers. Other people around us told how the lorry mounted the pavement at quite a high speed.
‘The emergency services were on the scene really quickly and have cordoned the area off so we can’t see much more.’
Margaret McLuckie, 42, told the Glasgow Evening Times: ‘A bin lorry came through the lights at speed. It crashed into the Millenium Hotel. It was terrifying. I just hope they’re alright.’
Another witness, Peter Smith, said he saw someone with a white sheet draped over them on the ground adding: ‘No a very nice atmosphere in town at the moment? No wonder, horrible tragedy’
Debris from parts of cars knocked into by the lorry as it moved across the square was left strewn across the road.
Daily Record reporter Keith Jackson, who was at the scene, said: ‘There’s walking wounded and lots of people crying and upset. It’s pretty unbelievable; horrendous. Everyone is in complete shock.’
David Lyon told STV News: ‘It was ploughing through the crowds. I grabbed my girlfriend and moved out of the way. It was chaos pretty much.’
After the bin lorry came to a halt, one of the first people it had struck was carried onto steps outside the Gallery of Modern Art. She was seen lying in the recovery position with her friends around her. They had placed jackets on top of her and were shouting for help.
Eventually paramedics reached the girl and fixed her into a back brace.
Restaurateur George Ieionymidis said: ‘Some people say they saw the driver lying on his steering wheel so it’s assumed he had a medical condition – a stroke or heart attack. After the lorry crashed, the driver was lying down on the floor and receiving medical attention.’
Anyone in Glasgow city centre was being urged by police to let family members and friends know they are safe.
‘This is a tragic incident which has taken place at a very busy time in the centre of our city,’ said ACC Mawson.
‘Please be assured my officers and other members of the emergency services will do everything they can to respond to this collision.
‘We have set up a helpline for anyone who believes a friend or relative may have been involved in this incident. The number is 01786 289070. However, due to the volume of calls that we are receiving, it would be helpful if anyone who was in Glasgow city centre today can call home to let their loved ones and friends know that they are safe. The safety of the people of Glasgow is our priority and the emergency services will continue to work together to establish the exact circumstances.’
A spokesman for the Institute of Traffic Accident Investigators said that vehicles, even large ones, can carry on for a considerable distance if there is an ‘unintended acceleration’, which could be caused by a driver falling ill – and perhaps going into a spasm – with their foot on the accelerator, or by someone inadvertently pressing the accelerator rather than the brake.
The man, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Without speculating on this incident, there might be a number of causes for a vehicle to travel a considerable distance.
‘If there is no external influence on the steering direction of the vehicle, then it will continue in a straight line.
‘An external influence might be a driver applying steering, or the wheels coming into contact with something like a kerb.
‘Regarding the distance travelled, one would expect a vehicle to slow if the driver’s foot had been removed from the accelerator, due to engine braking. And of course if the brake were applied one would expect it to slow.’
The spokesman said that in the eventuality of a brake failure a driver can also slow a vehicle by changing down through the gears.
He added: ‘But there are air brakes on those (bin lorries) and vehicles are fitted with a fail-safe mechanism. In air-brake system failures, brakes will come on automatically.
‘Had there been a failure in the air brake system the air brakes should automatically apply, but if it has carried on all this distance that would not appear to have been a problem in this case.
‘So gravity and engine braking would slow it down over a relatively short distance, if acceleration was not applied. And obviously brakes being applied should slow it down over a relatively short distance.’
Superintendent for Road Policing Division Stewart Carle said he estimated the bin lorry continued for roughly 328 yards along the pavement after striking the first pedestrian.
He said: ‘At about half past two this afternoon a Glasgow City Council refuse bin lorry has been travelling north on Queen Street just outside the Gallery of Modern Art when it collided with a pedestrian.’
He added: ‘The lorry continued up Queen Street towards George Square and there’s been a number of other collisions with pedestrians on the pavement.
‘As a consequence there’s been a number of fatalities. The bin lorry has come to rest against the Millennium Hotel. I would estimate, from the point of the initial impact to the hotel, about 300m.
‘There was a multiple agency response to this from fire, ambulance and police, as well as Glasgow City Council and other support agencies.
‘The seriously injured have been taken to the three main Glasgow major incident sites.
‘We’ve declared a major incident and we’re working with out partners as quickly as possible to resolve the situation and to identify those who have lost their lives, and to be there to support their families and next of kin.’
He added: ‘The bin lorry is in its final position just at the top of Queen Street at the corner of the Millennium Hotel where it crashed in, and that’s how it came to a stop.
‘We are currently starting a joint investigation with the Criminal Investigation Department as to what has happened here.
‘The driver has been taken to hospital where he is receiving treatment.’
Political leaders in Scotland and at Westminster also expressed their shock and paid tribute to the emergency services.
For Nicola Sturgeon, the incident marks the first serious tragedy of her time as First Minister.
In a statement, Scotland’s First Minister said: ‘My thoughts are with everyone involved in this tragic incident, and especially with the friends and families of the six people who lost their lives in what is another sad day for Glasgow and Scotland.
‘I am currently at the Police Scotland control room in Govan with Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, where I am being fully briefed with the latest information.
‘As ever, Scotland’s emergency services have responded in a swift and professional manner and I would encourage everyone to let them get on with their vitally important roles.’
Local MSP Sandra White said: ‘This is an utterly tragic day for the city of Glasgow and my heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their lives.
‘For an incident like this to occur at any time of year is terrible, but for it to happen only a few days before Christmas is especially heartbreaking.
‘This city has seen more than its share of tragedy in recent times – but I know I speak for all Glaswegians when I say that we will pull together and support all those affected as we always do.
‘Glasgow is noted for how we respond to adversity – and we can be proud of the response of the emergency services, and of the people of Glasgow who did their best to help in the immediate aftermath.
‘In the meantime, I would urge people to, as far as possible, stay away from the area in order to allow the emergency services to continue to do their jobs.’
Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said: ‘We don’t yet know the full extent of this tragedy, but my thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved.
‘People in Glasgow and across the whole of Scotland will be mourning this loss of life so close to Christmas. No words will be able to do justice to the pain the families involved will be feeling this evening.
‘I want to pay tribute to our emergency services, who are performing heroics in the worst of circumstances. They will have the admiration of every Glaswegian and all Scots.’
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: ‘This is a terrible tragedy, right in the heart of Scotland’s biggest city.
‘No-one expects that ordinary people, out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, would fail to make it home.
‘Everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones today.
‘Glasgow’s response has been magnificent. Passers-by immediately tried to help the injured, to direct traffic and assist the emergency services. Those emergency workers showed huge professionalism treating the wounded, securing the site and making sure people stayed safe.
‘Glasgow has pulled together in recent times during such senseless tragedies, and we’ve seen it do so again today.’
Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘I’m being kept fully briefed on the major incident in Glasgow. My thoughts are with the families of those involved and the emergency services.’
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: ‘Terrible news from Glasgow – my thoughts are with all those affected by this horrific accident.’
Inverclyde Council Provost Robert Moran said: ‘On behalf of the community of Inverclyde, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the tragic events in Glasgow today.
‘A tragedy like this one is shocking at any time. But, this occurring at Christmas when the city is packed with shoppers somehow makes it feel worse.
‘As a community we must do all we can to support friends, family, neighbours or colleagues affected by this tragedy.
‘The emergency services and all of those who responded today deserve our full praise.’
The Scottish Fire Service tweeted: ‘Firefighters are in attendance at a serious incident in Queen Street, Glasgow. Our crews are working alongside other emergency responders.’
Sarah Brown, the wife of former Prime Minister Gordon also expressed her shock in a tweet.
‘So saddened to hear of the fatalities in dreadful #georgesquare crash in Glasgow – thinking of the families involved,’ she wrote.
First, I heard a bang… then came terrible screaming
by Findlay Mair, who watched the horror unfold
First there came the terrible loud bang. Then all I heard was screaming.
As I turned from where I was standing in George Square and looked towards the Millennium Hotel, I saw a bin lorry up on the pavement and smashed into the hotel.
At first it looked as though it was just badly parked.
But there was a car behind the lorry, possibly a taxi, and the driver appeared to have been injured. Then, it became clear, this was no ordinary accident.
Suddenly it was chaos. Panic washed over those who had just witnessed this incomprehensible nightmare.
Some people were running towards the scene, others stood rooted to the spot, struck dumb with shock.
There were people who had come into the city for fun. Now, they could only stand and stare, unable to process the horror unfolding around them.
At first it was very difficult to grasp what had actually happened because the area had been so busy. Instinctively, almost, I found myself moving closer to the site of the crash.
As I got closer, a scene of utter devastation greeted me.
There were bodies lying in the road mingled with wreckage from the collision. Shopping bags and gifts were strewn everywhere. The screaming continued.
All around me were snapshots of pain and terrible suffering. I saw one girl who had been hit, lying on the ground. She got up – blood was pouring from her mouth – then she went down again.
She was young, no more than of student age. She screamed and screamed and then her body just collapsed beneath her, like a rag doll. It was clear she had very serious injuries and her distress was almost unbearable.
A woman got out of her car and just stared at what was unfolding. Then her face crumpled and she started sobbing uncontrollably. The words ‘Oh God, oh God’ kept tumbling out of her mouth in utter disbelief.
Among the bodies and scattered bits of twisted metal, Christmas shopping littered the ground – bags and parcels destined for loved ones that will never be placed under a tree.
And there was blood everywhere. Time seemed to stand still.
Those who were able to gather their wits ran to the victims to help, to do whatever they could.
The people who were hit simply had no time to take evasive action. The lorry bowled straight into them, scattering them like skittles.
Everyone started pulling out their mobile phones and calling the emergency services.
The first paramedics were on the scene within about three minutes, then there was a steady stream of ambulances, fire engines and police cars arriving.
They were met with horrific scenes. Yet, tending to the dead and the dying and the terrible pain of those badly injured, they reacted with calm professionalism. For some victims, though, it was clear that they were beyond help. They had suffered terrible injuries. The only small mercy, perhaps, was that they would have died quickly.
Everything happened quickly, only two days before Christmas. The accident – and then the aftermath.
Moments earlier, there had been such a buzz in the air. Hundreds of shoppers were drawn to the dazzling display of festive lights which light up George Square.
Usually a place of such joy – within seconds all of that had turned to unimaginable horror.
Before, the only sounds were the seasonal music blasting out from shops and the chatter and laughter of the crowds making their way through the square.
And then there was nothing but carnage and terrified faces everywhere you looked. I felt like I was standing in the middle of some surreal movie and yet it was all too real.
It was only then that a icy shiver ran down my back as I was struck by the cold realisation that, moments earlier, I had been standing exactly where that lorry careered along the pavement.
Many others standing nearby must have been thinking the same thing.
Talk inevitably turned to the freak accident visited upon Glasgow in the run-up to last Christmas, when a police helicopter fell out of the sky and landed on the Clutha bar, killing ten people.
On that occasion, the spirit of Glasgow came to the fore as people from all walks of life came to the aid of the injured. There was the same sense of pulling together, which may be the only positive thing any of us can take from yesterday’s tragedy.
For my part, I know that the sight of the flashing blue lights of the emergency vehicles merging with the blinking Christmas lights of George Square is one that will haunt me forever.
Similar to France in that a large vehicle lost control in a crowd of people mowing down many Christmas shoppers.
May the victims RIP. Condolences and prayers to the families.