Scottish Daily Mail

Three Britons killed as helicopter crashes in the Grand Canyon

- Mail Foreign Service

‘You could hear screaming’

THREE British tourists were killed when their sightseein­g helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon, it emerged last night.

The aircraft had seven on board – six passengers and a pilot – when it came down on the Hualapai Nation reservatio­n in Arizona.

Wreckage of the Eurocopter EC130 was seen ablaze after it hit the ground at a 600ft deep section of the natural wonder known as Quartermas­ter Canyon.

It was operated by Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter­s, which offers a range of tours starting from £161 per person.

Police said the aircraft crashed in ‘unknown circumstan­ces’ at around 5.20pm local time on Saturday.

Hualapai Nation Police Chief, Francis Bradley Sr yesterday said the survivors were taken to hospital in Las Vegas nine hours after the crash.

Four were described as level one trauma patients with critical, life-threatenin­g injuries.

Mr Bradley added that rescue crews were hampered by high winds and darkness on Saturday night along with the rugged terrain. ‘First responders had to be flown in and walk to the crash site,’ he said. ‘Quartermas­ter Canyon is an extremely remote area. We had to call in specially trained crews – people with night-vision goggles.’

Witnesses rushed to the scene of the accident, but were unable to reach the survivors 600ft below them.

Photograph­er Teddy Fujimoto told MailOnline he had flown to the Grand Canyon to take wed- ding pictures when he saw people rushing by. Our pilot and other pilots all started running,’ he said. ‘I followed them and I saw smoke.

‘Immediatel­y saw two girls. I could see that they were alive and conscious. They were in their 30s or 40s,’ he said.

‘I saw these two ladies run out of it, and then an explosion. One of the survivors looked all bloody. Her clothes probably were burnt off. The ladies were screaming. It was just horrible.’

The photograph­er added: ‘People made their way down. It was certainly dangerous and a mazy climb down for them. It took around ten minutes for the emergency services to arrive. By the time they did, most of the fire was out.’

Mr Fujimoto said he was left numbed by what he had seen. ‘Everybody was in shock. I just felt horrible,’ he said.

‘You could hear the screaming loudly, even from all that way away. I’ve never seen anything like it’. Nevada-based Papillon, which bills itself as the world’s largest aerial sightseein­g company, was not available for comment last night.

The company’s website says it flies roughly 600,000 passengers a year around the Grand Canyon and on other tours.

The firm also says it ‘abides by flight safety rules and regulation­s that substantia­lly exceed the regulation­s required by the Federal Aviation Administra­tion.

Investigat­ors with the authority will now investigat­e the tragedy. Spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the Eurocopter crashed in unknown circumstan­ces and sustained heavy damage.

‘This is not just the fact that a helicopter crashed, this is a human tragedy,’ Mr Robb added. ‘People died and were horribly injured. It’s a tragedy for human beings.’

 ??  ?? Sightseein­g tours: A Eurocopter EC130 from the same fleet as the one that crashed into the canyon with seven on board
Sightseein­g tours: A Eurocopter EC130 from the same fleet as the one that crashed into the canyon with seven on board
 ??  ?? Crash site: Flames and smoke rise from the wreckage
Crash site: Flames and smoke rise from the wreckage

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