Three Britons who died when a helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon were two brothers and the girlfriend of one of the men, it has been reported.
Becky Dobson, 27, Jason Hill, 32, and Stuart Hill, 30, were killed in Saturday afternoon’s Papillon tour incident, while three further Britons were taken to hospital.
Dobson was a receptionist at a vets in Worthing, West Sussex and had previously been an au pair in Sydney, Australia, according to her Facebook page.
Stuart Hill was reportedly Dobson’s boyfriend and had undertaken the trip for his 30th birthday along with his older brother, Jason, a corporate senior associate for law firm, Shoosmiths.
Stuart worked for Mercedes as a salesman.
Their father, Reverend David Hill, told the Evening Standard: “The two brothers loved each other and were very close, and so our misfortune is their support - because they went together, and I will thank God every day for them.”
Jason’s girlfriend Jennifer Barham, 39, survived with friends Ellie Milward, 29, and her husband Jonathan Udall, 32, and pilot Scott Booth, 42. All were today in a critical condition in hospital with severe burns and other injuries.
The survivors had to wait more than eight hours to be rescued and they were not airlifted from the scene until around 2am on Sunday.
Dramatic images of the crash site show the wreckage lying at the bottom of a steep rocky canyon, engulfed in bright orange flames with thick billowing smoke.
One appears to show a female survivor, wearing jeans and a white top, fleeing the scene as the fire rages behind her.
Lionel Douglass had been attending a wedding on a bluff about 1,000 yards away from where the helicopter burst into flames.
He told ABC News: “I had taken my phone and I was zooming in to see if I could see anybody and a lady walked out of the flames and I just lost it.”
He said he saw the helicopter fall between and hit the bottom with the “biggest explosion you ever heard and then flames like you never seen before”.
A series of smaller blasts followed, according to reports.
The helicopter was on a tour of the canyon, one of the top US tourist destinations and more than a mile deep, when it crashed into jagged rocks by the Grand Canyon’s West Rimwent around 5.20pm.
It is not clear what caused the crash.
A 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.”
The helicopter, an Eurocopter EC130 from Airbus, “crashed under unknown circumstances in the Grand Canyon” and suffered substantial damage, Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an email, according to Reuters.
Darkness, windy conditions and the remoteness of the area made it difficult for rescuers to reach the wreckage.
Crews had to be flown in and the survivors were airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital, according to AP.
Hualapai Police chief Francis Bradley said: “It’s a very tragic incident.
“Yesterday, we were hampered by severe weather conditions, we had gusts up to 50mph. The terrain where the crash occurred … is extremely rugged.”
He told ABC News the tour originated in Boulder City, Nevada, and that a storm was rolling into the area at the time of the crash.
Bradley described the weather conditions as “not normal”, but said no flight restrictions were in place.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident.
Papillon Airways says on its website that it is “the world’s largest aerial sightseeing company” and boasts that its trips are “the only way to tour the Grand Canyon”.
The company says it flies around 600,000 passengers a year over the Grand Canyon and on other tours.
It also says it “abides by flight safety rules and regulations that substantially exceed the regulations required by the Federal Aviation Administration”.
A Papillon helicopter was previously involved in a fatal Grand Canyon crash in 2001.