A Grand Canyon tour helicopter parked near the West Rim
Three British tourists are dead, and a further four people are being treated for serious burns and other injuries, following a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon.
The survivors had to wait for eight hours before they were rescued and airlifted out of the West Rim of the canyon. Rescue teams hiked through rugged terrain using night-vision goggles to reach the crash scene, and then had to wait for 50mph winds to subside, according to the Arizona Republic website.
The injured passengers were identified as Britons Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39. Pilot Scott Booth, 42, was also hurt. They are all said to be in a critical condition.
The three people killed were Becky Dobson, 27, Jason Hill, 32, and Stuart Hill, 30.
The relationship of those on board was not immediately known, nor what caused the Eurocopter EC130 to crash.
The helicopter operator, Papillion Airways, has been involved in at least three other deadly incidents in the past 20 years, says Arizona Republic.
Witness Teddy Fujimoto told CNN affiliate KSNV that he was taking photographs when he saw the aftermath of Saturday’s crash, including an explosion and two women who ran screaming from the burning aircraft.
Another witness, Lionel Douglass, told ABC News that he saw the helicopter doing two complete circles “as if the pilot was searching for a spot to set the aircraft down” before it plummeted. “It fell down between the mountains, the tail broke in half, it hit the bottom,” Douglass said.
Thousands of helicopters fly over the Canyon each year, competing for business in the same limited space.
Papillon is cooperating with the US National Transportation Safety Board and authorities, and offered “heartfelt sympathy” to the families, ABC News reports.