Fellow sight-seers told today how they spent ten hours tending to the victims of a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon that killed three British holidaymakers and left four others critically hurt.
Jason Hill, 32, a lawyer, his younger brother Stuart, 30, a car salesman, and Stuart’s girlfriend Becky Dobson, 27, a veterinary receptionist, all died when the aircraft exploded in a fireball and plunged 600 feet in the Arizona desert.
Mr Hill’s girlfriend, Jennifer Barham, 39, survived along with newlyweds Ellie Milward, 29, and her husband Jonathan Udall, 32, who were all today in a critical condition in hospital.
Pilot Scott Booth, 42, also suffered life-threatening injuries when the Eurocopter EC30 crashed carrying the six friends.
Tourists on another helicopter tour, which landed moments before the fatal crash, today told how they spent up to ten hours helping rescuers at the site after strong winds prevented the casualties from being airlifted out.
Conrad Fish, 19, from South Cadbury, Somerset, was one of the first on the scene.
He said: “They were all in a very bad way – they had wounds all over their bodies.
“Adrenaline kicked in and all I did was help carry equipment down and help the fire brigade down. The real heroes were the doctors that kept the survivors alive.”
He added: “I’m glad that I could help in some way.”
Another tour passenger, Kaitlyn Rodriguez, told how she had also landed just moments before the disaster.
Writing on Facebook, she said her mother and fellow tourists hiked down to the crash site to administer first aid.
She said: “I was on this tour and moments after our helicopter landed, witnessed the crash.
“My amazingly brave mother, along with several others, trekked down into the ravine to assist the survivors.
“We were stranded in the Grand Canyon for hours, my mom being at the bottom administering medical attention to the survivors for over 10 hours.
“So very proud of her and all who helped the victims of the crash. Such a tragic accident.”
The crash on Saturday took place on the Hualapai reservation tribal area where air tours are not as tightly regulated as those inside the national park.
The six friends had booked a tour as part of a trip celebrating Stuart Hill’s 30th birthday.
The brothers, originally from Worthing, West Sussex, had spent a year saving for the trip, their family told the Standard.
The helicopter crashed in rugged terrain in an area known as Quartermaster Canyon.
Mr Booth is a part-time pilot at Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, a tour company that flies tourists out of Las Vegas to get spectacular views of the Arizona natural wonder.
His friends were today trying to raise $50,000 (£36,000) to cover his expected medical bills. Hualapai Police Chief Francis Bradley said the pilot had “a severe injury to one of his limbs”.
Fellow Papillon pilot, T.J. Wesoloski said Mr Booth had undergone one operation and was likely to need “several more”, adding it would be “a long road to recovery”.
Writing online, he said: “Scott was, STILL is, one of the nicest, kindest human beings on the face of the planet. He would always offer to help if someone was in need, and would often crack a joke while doing it.
“This man and his family need our help.”
Nearly $20,000 (£14,500) has so far been raised.
Federal investigators are now set to probe whether or not the helicopter should have taken off amid 50mph winds which hampered rescue attempts.
Aviation lawyer Gary Robb said: “These helicopters fly so close to the canyon walls that a sudden unexpected gust could push either the main rotor or the tail rotor into the wall — and that would be disastrous.”
Meanwhile it emerged Papillon has been involved in at least three other fatal crashes in the last 20 years.
Chief executive Brenda Halvorson said the company was “co-operating fully” with local and federal investigators.