Helicopter Crash in the Grand Canyon
Everyone at Breyer Law Offices, P.C., was saddened to hear about the fatal helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon last week. Six people were on board a sightseeing tour of the canyon when the helicopter crashed. Flights were put on hold while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) figured out what caused the crash, but they resumed just a few days later.
The crash occurred at 5:20 p.m. near Quartermaster Canyon on February 10, 2018, inside the Hualapai Nation. Three people, plus the pilot, were injured while three others died of injuries sustained during the crash. All occupants except for the pilot were tourists visiting the Grand Canyon from Great Britain. The downed helicopter also caught on fire, which caused burn injuries to victims.
Here’s What We Know:
The helicopter was eight years old and could hold up to seven passengers. It was a type EC130 B4, which costs around $3 million, and it had a new engine installed in 2011. Unfortunately, the EC130 often lacks a system that keeps it from exploding on impact, which makes it very hard for victims to escape a fire after impact. The company that owned and operated the helicopter is Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, and it has been involved in three other deadly accidents during the past 20 years.
The helicopter left Boulder City Municipal Airport early Saturday morning to make three loops around the Grand Canyon during an eight-hour period, which was a normal operating time for these types of tours. It flew at about 5,000 feet according to its historical flight data for much of the trip. It was headed back toward the airport at around 4:50 p.m. to finish its journey when the last transmissions were sent. It was traveling at about 160 mph.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash. They plan to analyze the parts of the helicopter and the flight data, make meteorological observations, and examine the engine.
Two brothers were among the passengers who were killed, as well as one of their fiancées. The surviving victims were all friends of the deceased and had been traveling together to celebrate a birthday.
How Are Helicopter Tours Regulated?
In the Grand Canyon, helicopter tour regulations fall under two categories. If the area they fly over is national park land, it is more highly regulated than the area over tribal land. The Hualapai Tribe received special exemption almost 20 years ago, allowing them to bypass regulations on when helicopters can fly, how often, and where they can fly. Some reports indicate that tours over tribal land share airspace with many other helicopters and call it a “flurry” of activity that functions more like an airborne shuttle service. However, this is the first deadly incident over the West Rim in 15 years.
Many crashes take months for experts to figure out what happened and if the tragedy could have been avoided.
Victims of helicopter accidents have a long path to recovery ahead of them and deserve to have an experienced attorney at their side helping them get settlements to cover their expenses.