Three British tourists killed in a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon have been named by US police.
Becky Dobson, 27, Jason Hill, 32, and Stuart Hill, 30, died in Saturday’s crash, the Hualapai Nation Police Department said.
Four survivors of a deadly tour helicopter crash onto the jagged rocks of the Grand Canyon were being treated at a Nevada hospital on Sunday 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 said, according to the Arizona Republic.
Images have emerged showing flames and thick smoke rising from the boulder-strewn crash site.
Police said Britons Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39, were injured in the crash, along with pilot Scott Booth, 42.
They were rescued at 02:00 local time on Sunday and flown to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, a statement said.
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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 meters) 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.
A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are providing support to the families of six British visitors involved in a helicopter accident at the Grand Canyon on 10 February, and we are in close contact with the US emergency services.”
In a statement, Brenda Halvorson, the chief executive of the helicopter company involved – Papillon Airways – said the company extended its heartfelt sympathy to the families of the dead and injured.
On its website, Papillon calls itself “the world’s largest aerial sightseeing company” and says it flies more than 600,000 people a year.
The Grand Canyon, which is more than 1.6km (one mile) deep, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the US.