A helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon that killed five British tourists in February could have been prevented, an inquest has heard. James Healy-Pratt, representing the parents of a group of friends who died after the Airbus helicopter plummeted to the ground and caught fire, made the claim at West Sussex coroner’s court during a…
A helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon that killed five British tourists in February could have been prevented, an inquest has heard.
James Healy-Pratt, representing the parents of a group of friends who died after the Airbus helicopter plummeted to the ground and caught fire, made the claim at West Sussex coroner’s court during a pre-inquest review on Tuesday.
Rebecca Dobson, 26, her boyfriend, Stuart Hill, 29, and his brother, Jason Hill, 31, died in the crash shortly before sunset on 10 February. Their friends Jonathan Udall, 31, of Southampton, and 29-year-old Eleanor Milward, who were on their honeymoon, died later from their injuries.
Healy-Pratt, who represents the families of four of the victims, said: “This accident was survivable. This accident was preventable. Further and future innocent lives are at risk without adequate crash-resistant fuel systems.”
Citing October’s helicopter crash at Leicester City FC, which also killed five people including the club’s chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Healey-Pratt said helicopters continued to fly without crash-resistant fuel tanks. He said the industry had known about this safety concern for 20 years but had failed to act.
“A helicopter can crash and if the fuel system is not robust enough people will burn to death and that is what has happened over the past 20 years,” he told the court.
Jason Hill’s girlfriend, Jennifer Dorricott, survived the crash but suffered life-changing injuries and was recovering, the review heard.
The pilot, Scott Booth, lost both legs in the crash, Healy-Pratt said. He is expected to give evidence later.
The Hill brothers were so badly burned the investigators struggled to identify their remains, US autopsy reports revealed.
Healy-Pratt claimed there was “insufficient regulatory action” by authorities in Europe and the US but manufacturers, operators and owners had also not done enough to warn people of the dangers.
He added: “There’s no rule that forces helicopters to retro-fit safer fuel tanks and that is something the families have very serious concerns with.”
Udall’s parents have already launched a wrongful death lawsuit against the tour operator and manufacturer, claiming their son would have survived if crash-resistant fuel systems (CRFS) had been installed.
They are also suing Booth for negligence in a separate lawsuit. Airbus previously said it was increasing the number of aircraft built with CRFS.
The US National Transportation Safety Board is likely to publish a report on the accident in February and another pre-inquest review will take place in the UK in March.
The coroner, Penelope Schofield, said the full inquest was likely to take place in autumn next year.