PEACH SPRINGS – The Hualapai Nation Police Department has identified the British tourists who were killed in Saturday’s helicopter crash on a sightseeing tour of the Grand Canyon.
The deceased passengers are Becky Dobson, 27; Jason Hill, 32; and Stuart Hill, 30, all from the United Kingdom.
The helicopter pilot, Scott Booth, 42, and three other passengers, including a tour guide, survived the crash and were flown to University Medical Center in Las Vegas with Level 1 trauma injuries.
The other passengers were identified as Ellie Milward, 29; Jonathan Udall, 32; and Jennifer Barham, 39.
It wasn’t easy for rescuers to get to the helicopter crash site near Quartermaster Canyon, about 60 miles west of Peach Springs, said Francis Bradley, police chief for the Hualapai Nation.
Rescue efforts were hampered by high winds, darkness and rugged terrain. The only access to the crash was by a 20-minute hike on foot or by helicopter, Bradley said on Facebook.
The Papillon Airways EC-130 helicopter, based out of Boulder City, crashed around 5:20 p.m. Saturday.
While wind gusts were recorded at 45-55 mph over the weekend, the National Weather Service said wind conditions were about 10 mph at the time of the crash, gusting to 20 mph.
Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue assisted the Hualapai Nation in responding to the accident. The unit set up a command post in an airport hangar and sent 10 people down by helicopter, and they spent the night there, said Sgt. Lester Tarkowski, search and rescue coordinator for MCSO.
“It was very tiring and long,” he said. “We didn’t get out of there until about 2 o’clock the next afternoon. We actually did all of the recovery of the deceased for the Hualapai Nation.”
It was windy, dusty and dirty, and the helicopter pilots on the scene were stressed from flying sorties, Tarkowski said.
Other agencies on scene were Hualapai Nation Emergency Services, Hualapai Nation Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mercy Air, Care Flight and Classic Air Medical.
Lionel Douglass, who witnessed the crash while attending a wedding on a bluff about 1,000 feet way, told ABC News he saw a lady walk out of the flames “and I just lost it.”
The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA. Pilot error was blamed in a 2001 crash of a Papillion helicopter on a tour of the Grand Canyon that killed five passengers and the pilot.
Safety is the top priority at Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, according to the company web site. Papillon is certified by the Tour Operators Program of Safety, an organization whose main goal is to ensure safety and reliability in the air tour industry.
Papillon’s tours start from $224 for a three- to four-flight, taking off from a private heliport in Boulder City and flying over Lake Mead and Hoover Dam before heading to the Grand Canyon’s West Rim.