Grand Canyon. (Wikimedia Commons)

3 British tourists killed in Grand Canyon helicopter crash

Four people were taken to a Las Vegas hospital

Four survivors of a deadly tour helicopter crash onto the jagged rocks of the Grand Canyon were being treated at a Nevada hospital while crews tackled difficult terrain in a remote area to try to recover the bodies of three other people.

Six British tourists and a pilot were on board the Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters chopper when it crashed under unknown circumstances on Saturday evening on the Hualapai Nation’s land near Quartermaster Canyon, by the Grand Canyon’s West Rim. A witness said he saw flames and black smoke spewing from the crash site, heard explosions and saw victims who were bleeding and badly burned.

“It’s just horrible,” witness Teddy Fujimoto said. “And those victims — she was so badly burned. It’s unimaginable, the pain.”

Windy conditions, darkness and the rugged terrain made it difficult to reach the helicopter’s wreckage, Hualapai Nation police Chief Francis Bradley said. Rescue crews had to fly in, walk to the crash site and use night vision goggles to find their way around, he said.

The survivors were airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital by around 2 a.m. Sunday, Bradley said.

All six passengers were from the United Kingdom, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed. Three passengers and the pilot were airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital early Sunday, Bradley told the Arizona Republic .

Authorities didn’t immediately release the names or ages of the victims.

National Transportation Safety Board officials were expected at the crash scene by Sunday afternoon to begin investigating what caused the chopper to go down, Bradley said. The Federal Aviation Administration also will be investigating the crash of the Eurocopter EC130, spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Flagstaff and Phoenix said winds were blowing an estimated 10 mph (16 kph) with gusts of 20 mph (32 kph) around the time of the crash.

Fujimoto, a Las Vegas photographer who was doing a wedding shoot at the time of the crash, said he suddenly saw people running toward the edge of a gulch. He said he heard gasps and went to check out the commotion coming from about 600 feet (183 metres) below.

“In the gulch, there was a helicopter, flames, smoke,” he said. “It was horrible.”

He said that’s when two or three small explosions went off in the wreckage and people weren’t sure what to do. He said some other pilots flying helicopters in the area at the time of the crash descended into the gulch and delivered water and first aid supplies.

Fujimoto said he saw two badly injured women and one of them was yelling out a man’s name. He said one of them “was pretty much burned all over.”

“Her hands were bloody and body was just more burned,” Fujimoto said.

The other woman, he said, was “covered in blood” and was bleeding from her head or neck.

Fujimoto said he has taken helicopter rides for photo shoots for the past few years and generally felt safe. He said the crash aftermath is the worst thing he’s ever witnessed.

The tour company promised full co-operation with crash investigators and offered its sympathy.

“It is with extreme sadness we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families involved in this accident,” Papillon Group CEO Brenda Halvorson said in a statement. “Our top priority is the care and needs of our passengers and our staff.”

The Nevada-based company’s website says it flies roughly 600,000 passengers a year around the Grand Canyon and on other tours. It notes that it “abides by flight safety rules and regulations that substantially exceed the regulations required by the Federal Aviation Administration.”

In August 2001, a Grand Canyon tour helicopter operated by Papillon crashed and burned near Meadview, Arizona. The pilot and five passengers died. An NTSB report issued in 2004 blamed the pilot’s decision to descend too fast and too close to the scenic Grand Wash Cliffs.

___

Associated Press writer Terry Tang contributed to this report.

Walter Berry, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Four-sailing wait at BC Ferries Swartz Bay terminal

Full vessels create long waits on Friday afternoon

A year in tent city: Timeline of Camp Namegans

Since September 2017, Victoria’s homeless camp has set up in more than 20 locations

Tent city campers prepare to leave Uplands Park

Vehicle access remains restricted at Cattle Point

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

‘Repeat test fails’ clogging up the system, says ICBC

Increased driver education key to shorter wait times, safer roads

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for Oct. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Most Read