The Christmas lights in Glasgow’s George Square were turned off this morning as the city awoke to the nightmare of another festive tragedy.
• WARNING: THE ABOVE VIDEO CONTAINS SCENES THAT SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND UPSETTING
Six people are confirmed to have been killed and eight seriously injured after a council bin lorry ploughed into Christmas shoppers in the city centre.
The out-of-control vehicle sped down Queen Street and mounted a busy pavement outside the Gallery of Modern Art, close to the iconic Duke of Wellington statue, crashing into the first pedestrians there. It then appeared to accelerate, running over people “like skittles”.
Some pedestrians were able to dive out of the way of the lorry but others were struck without even realising what was happening.
One mother with two children and a pram fainted after she leapt out of the lorry’s path with only seconds to spare.
The truck, estimated to be travelling at 40mph, finally crossed the road near Queen Street station before crashing into the Millennium Hotel. It is thought the lorry driver may have suffered a heart attack or a seizure. Some witnesses reported seeing him slumped over the wheel.
Eyewitness Moire McClintock (18), an Edinburgh University student, said she saw the lorry “screaming up the road at a crazy speed”.
It is understood the driver had two other people in the cab with him. Their account will now form a crucial part of what is likely to be a lengthy investigation.
The eight injured in the crash – including the driver – are receiving treatment at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, the Southern General and the Western Infirmary.
A fleet of private ambulances with police outriders left the crash site early this morning.
A large cordon remains in place and dozens of floral tributes have been placed at the scene.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said flags would fly at half-mast on government buildings today out of respect.
The carnage unfolded only half a mile from last year’s Clutha Helicopter disaster in which ten people died. Chief Inspector Mark Sutherland, from Police Scotland, said: “It’s important that we take all the necessary steps to [complete the investigation] as quickly as we can so that we get the answers for the families and get their loved ones back to them as quick as we can.”
Police are appealing to members of the public who have photographs, videos or any type of mobile footage of the incident to send it to a dedicated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officers have also confirmed that the tragedy, which unfolded at 2.30 p.m. yesterday, was “not a terrorism-related incident”.
Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson described the road crash as “a terrible tragedy”, while Glasgow Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said his “heart broke” for those caught up in the incident.
Mr Matheson said: “This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected, particularly the families of those who have lost their lives.”
Archbishop Tartaglia said: “I was shocked and horrified to hear the news of this incident. My heart breaks for all those who have been directly caught up in it as they go about their business just a few days before Christmas in the centre of Glasgow. The circumstances could hardly be more tragic. I would ask any person of faith to pray for those who have died and their relatives and those who have been injured.”
Former Lord Provost of Glasgow Michael Kelly said: “It is unbelievable that such a wonderful year for Glasgow generally was bookended by tragedies.
“Just over 12 months after the Clutha the city is hit with this same kind of public disaster which is going to throw a blanket of grief over the city.” Edinburgh Lord Provost Donald Wilson said he would write to his counterpart in Glasgow.
Sturgeon in tribute to victims
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon led tributes to victims of the accident.
She 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.
“As ever, Scotland’s emergency services have responded in a swift and professional manner.”
Kirk Moderator John Chalmers said: “The news from the city centre of Glasgow just a few days before Christmas is simply devastating. For the second year in a row, Glaswegians will have to dig deep into their reserves of compassion and sympathy as they support the families of those who have been killed and injured today.”
Tennis star Andy Murray tweeted: “Very very sad. Thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected.”
Memories of tragedy
The tragedy in George Square bought back memories of an accident more than 45 yars ago in nearby Sauchiehall Street.
In October 1968, Margaret Fisher, 50, was killed and 27 others were injured when a runaway lorry hurtled down a steep hill before smashing through the front of Lyons store.
The site of the bin lorry carnage is also just half a mile from the Clutha Vaults where ten people died just over a year ago when a police helicopter plunged through the pub roof.
And it is almost 44 years since the Ibrox disaster on January 2, 1971, when 66 fans died and 200 were injured in a horrific crush as people left the stadium.