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

Surrey business groups dig in heels on LRT

Mayor-elect Doug McCallum and his coalition aim to cancel LRT in favour of extending SkyTrain

Homicide team called in after man assaulted in Surrey dies in hospital

Police say they were called about assault early Sunday morning but both caller and victim took off

UPDATE: Missing Surrey girl, 15, located

Surrey RCMP sought help to locate Hailey McClelland

Dancing zombies expected in droves at Surrey’s ‘Thrill the World’ event

Michael Jackson’s iconic video inspires group-dance gatherings around the globe

New faces on Surrey council: Who they are and how they got here

The council includes seven of eight candidates who ran with Doug McCallum-led Safe Surrey Coalition

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

Vancouver mayoral hopefuly admits defeat, congratulates winner Kennedy Stewart

Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association apologized for the time it took to acknowledge Stewart won

Mental fitness questioned of man charged in Chilliwack River Valley shooting

Peter Kampos told his lawyer ‘his dreams are being stolen and turned into drugs’ at Surrey Pre-trial

Fraser Valley mom stuck in Africa over adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran have been waiting four weeks to bring son home

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Most Read