Grand Canyon helicopter crash that killed British tourists caused by tailwinds

A Grand Canyon helicopter crash that killed five British friends, including a honeymooning couple, was probably caused by the pilot losing control due to tailwind conditions, a report has concluded.

Brothers Stuart and Jason Hill, 30 and 32, originally from Worthing, West Sussex, were killed in the tragedy, along with Stuart’s 27-year-old girlfriend Becky Dobson, when the Airbus EC130 B4 went down shortly before sunset on 10 February 2018.

Their friends, honeymooning newlyweds Ellie Milward, from West Sussex, and Jonathan Udall, originally from Southampton, also died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Jonathan Udall and Ellie Milward, pictured on a JustGiving page set up to raise money for the pair
Image:Newlyweds Jonathan and Ellie Udall. Ellie survived the initial crash but never regained consciousness

Jason’s girlfriend Jennifer Dorricott survived but with life-changing injuries after the aircraft burst into flames on impact.

The group were on holiday in the US to celebrate Stuart’s 30th birthday and the Udalls as newlyweds with a trip to Las Vegas.

Pilot Scott Booth, who also survived but had both his legs amputated, told the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inquiry that the helicopter encountered a “violent gust of wind” and began to spin as he attempted to land next to the Colorado River.

The NTSB’s final report concluded that tailwinds, potential downdrafts and turbulence were the probable cause of the loss of control of the aircraft.

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Post-accident examination of the helicopter and engine found no evidence of mechanical problems, according to the findings, which did not include any safety recommendations.

Investigators said that the remote location of the accident site and communication difficulties meant victims were not taken to a hospital until around six hours later.

The “most significant factor” affecting survival of those onboard the helicopter was the post-crash fire, according to the findings, with the aircraft “not equipped, nor was it required to be equipped, with a crash-resistant fuel system”.

The parents of Mr Udall sued helicopter company Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters and aircraft manufacturer Airbus Helicopters over failing to equip the helicopter with the crash-resistant system, in a case that is ongoing.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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