The three British tourists who tragically lost their lives when a helicopter crashed in a fireball in the Grand Canyon on Saturday have been named.
Becky Dobson, 27, Jason Hill,, 32, and Stuart Hill, 30, tragically died after their helicopter crashed into jagged rocks at the Arizona national park.
Three other Britons onboard the chopper survived the accident with injuries and were named as Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39.
Stuart and Jason Hill were brothers and Becky Dobson was the girlfriend of Stuart.
Pilot Scott Booth, 42, was also taken to hospital in a critical condition after the injured survivors spent about nine hours in the canyon as fierce winds and rugged terrain hampered the rescue effort after the crash.
The Eurocopter EC130 helicopter was operated by Papillon Airways, an aerial sightseeing company that gives tours of the natural landmark in Arizona and other locations.
The helicopter went down on the west rim of the canyon at about 5.20pm on Saturday, and the survivors were airlifted to hospital on an Air Force helicopter at about 2am on Sunday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
Rescue crews stabilised them but had to wait for conditions to improve before they could be flown out of the canyon and taken to University Medical Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hualapai Police chief Francis Bradley Snr said of the survivors:
I’ve seen a lot of accidents, especially those involving car crashes and other types of traumatic injuries, and … the will to survive kicks in.
And as you know, it’s a fight or flight syndrome that we have in every one one of us, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with their survival.
Chief Bradley said the tour originated in Boulder City, Nevada, just outside of Vegas, and a storm was rolling into the area at the time of the crash.
— Gerard Ramalho (@GerardNews3LV) February 11, 2018
Becky Dobson, 27, and brothers, Stuart Hill, 30, and Jason Hill, 32, were killed in the crash. Fellow Britons and newlyweds Jonathan Udall, 32, and Ellie Millwood, 29, 39-year-old passenger Jennifer Barnham and the pilot, Scott Booth, 42, are fighting for their lives.
Chief Bradley continued:
It’s a very tragic incident.
Yesterday, we were hampered by severe weather conditions, we had gusts up to 50mph. The terrain where the crash occurred… is extremely rugged.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said they were ‘providing support to the families of six British visitors involved in a helicopter accident at the Grand Canyon on 10 February’ and were ‘in close contact with the US emergency services’, The Telegraph reports.
The tour company says it flies 600,000 passengers a year around the Grand Canyon, and released a statement promising full cooperation with crash investigators.
The statement by Papillon Group CEO Brenda Halvorson said:
It is with extreme sadness we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families involved in this accident.
Our top priority is the care and needs of our passengers and our staff.
— Chris Stewart (@CStewartWPTV) February 12, 2018
In 2001, the company was involved in another sightseeing helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon that left six dead, and it has been investigated after at least three other fatal incidents in the last 20 years.
An NTSB report issued in 2004 blamed the pilot’s decision to descend too quickly and too close to the scenic Grand Wash Cliffs.