Three of the five British tourists killed after their helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon survived the initial impact only to die in the ensuing explosion, autopsy reveals
- Stuart and Jason Hill and Rebecca Dobson were killed in crash in February
- Trio survived the initial impact but died of smoke inhalation and burns that covered 100 per cent of their bodies, autopsy reveals
- Stuart and Jason were so badly burned their identities were initially mixed up
- Comes after parents of Jonathan Udall, who also died alongside new bride Ellie Milward, sued the helicopter firm for failing to fit a crash-proof fuel tank
Three of the five British tourists killed after a helicopter crashed in Las Vegas survived the initial impact only to die in the ensuing fireball, their autopsies show.
Brothers Stuart and Jason Hill, 30 and 32, and Stuart’s partner Rebecca Dobson, 27, died from smoke inhalation and burns which covered their entire bodies, the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office said on Wednesday.
Medics said the brothers, from Worth, West Sussex were burned beyond recognition and were initially mistaken for each other. Dobson was also unrecognizable.
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Brothers Stuart and Jason Hill, 30 and 32, survived a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon last year but were killed in the ensuing fireball, suffering burns to 100 per cent of their bodies. The pair were so badly burned they were initially mistaken for each other
Stuart’s partner Rebecca Dobson (second right, with Stuart), also survived the crash but died from burns to 95 per cent of her body. Jonathan Udall and new bride Ellie Milward (together left) also suffered severe burns and died later in hospital
A survivor, lower right, walks away from the scene of a deadly tour helicopter crash along the jagged rocks of the Grand Canyon
It was only after the brothers’ remains were returned to England and DNA testing was carried out that the correct identities could be established.
There also was evidence that all three suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The reports emerged after the family of fourth victim Jonathan Udall, from Southampton, launched a lawsuit against helicopter company Papillon Airways and Airbus, accusing both firms of causing his death through negligence.
Mr Udall and his new bride Ellie Milward, who were on their honeymoon when they died, also suffered severe burns. They died several days after the crash in hospital.
Philip and Marlene Udall say Papillon and Airbus failed to fit the helicopter with a crash-resistant fuel system which could have saved their son’s life.
Attorney Gary Robb said the couple want to prevent others from suffering deadly burns in similar crashes.
The lawsuit seeks more than $195,000, other unspecified damages, attorneys’ fees and a jury trial.
The Hill brothers, Miss Dobson, Mr Udall and Mrs Milward, who was also from West Sussex, were all friends and on holiday to celebrate Stuart’s 30th birthday when they were killed.
Robb said Mr Udall suffered third- and fourth-degree burns to 95 per cent of his body, and his wife had burns over 35 per cent of her body.
Jonathan Udall’s parents, Philip and Marlene Udall (pictured), claimed in the lawsuit that their son could have survived if not for the post-crash fire and want to prevent others from suffering deadly burns, their attorney, Gary C. Robb, said
Couple Stuart Hill and Becky Dobson (pictured) both died instantly in the crash, alongside Stuart’s brother Jason
In this Saturday, February 10 file photo, emergency personnel arrive at the scene of a deadly tour helicopter crash along the jagged rocks of the Grand Canyon
Ellie and Jon Udall (pictured together) were on their honeymoon when the aircraft crashed
‘There is no possible excuse for any helicopter not to have this simple but utterly effective technology, no excuse. None,’ Robb said.
‘If any helicopter executive spent five minutes with any of these burn victims, I guarantee every helicopter in their fleet would have it.’
Representatives of Papillon and Airbus did immediately return email and phone messages seeking comment late Friday.
The National Transportation Safety Board repeatedly has urged the Federal Aviation Administration to require that all helicopters have the systems.
The FAA is considering it but right now they are required only for helicopter models that are newly certified after 1994, a requirement that aviation experts have called a major loophole. The Airbus EC130 B4 that crashed in the Grand Canyon was manufactured in 2010 but it is a version of helicopter that was designed before 1994.
Airbus spokesman Bob Cox said earlier this week that all single-engine helicopters the company has sold in the U.S. since 2016 include the systems.
Papillon announced Monday that it would retrofit 40 of its Airbus EC130 B4 and AS350 B3 helicopters with the new fuel systems starting in April – a move Robb said came too late.
Udall’s parents are seen above in a Facebook photo. A preliminary report released last month said the helicopter made at least two 360-degree turns before crashing with Udall, his five friends and the pilot aboard. Aviation experts said that indicates the tail rotor wasn’t operating properly
Udall is pictured above with his mom. A sixth passenger, 39-year-old Jennifer Barham, and the 42-year-old pilot, Scott Booth, remained in critical condition Friday
Robb has represented others who were burned after helicopter hard landings and crashes, including a flight nurse who recently settled a lawsuit against Airbus and Air Methods Corp. for $100 million.
In that case, the nurse spent 13 months in the hospital for burns over 90 percent of his body, kidney failure and internal bleeding after the medical helicopter he was in crashed shortly after takeoff in Frisco, Colorado, and erupted into flames.
The helicopter pilot was killed in the 2015 incident and another flight nurse was injured. The NTSB found that the pilot turned off a switch that cut hydraulic pressure to the tail rotor.
The NTSB report on the Grand Canyon crash won’t be out for more than a year.
A preliminary report released last month said the helicopter made at least two 360-degree turns before crashing with Udall, his five friends and the pilot aboard. Aviation experts said that indicates the tail rotor wasn’t operating properly.
A sixth passenger, 39-year-old Jennifer Barham, and the 42-year-old pilot, Scott Booth, remained in critical condition Friday.
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