A helicopter crash that killed five British tourists in the Grand Canyon could have been prevented and more people could still die if changes aren’t made to fuel safety, an inquest heard
Rebecca Dobson, 26, her boyfriend Stuart Hill, 29, and his brother Jason Hill, 31, all died when the aircraft plummeted into a ball of fire on February 10.
Their friends, newlyweds Jonathan Udall, 31, and Eleanor Milward, 29, who were on honeymoon, died from their injuries later that month.
A lawyer representing the victims’ parents drew comparisons between the tragedy and the fatal helicopter crash at Leicester City Football Club in October.
He told West Sussex Coroner’s Court today that helicopters are still flying around the UK without crash-resistant fuel tanks.>Angry virgin, 27, 'threatened to massacre women because he couldn't get a girlfriend'
Experts in the industry have known about the safety concern for 20 years but not acted, James Healy-Pratt said.
The friends, from Worthing, were on holiday celebrating Stuart’s 30th birthday with a trip to Las Vegas when the tragedy happened.
Jennifer Dorricott, the girlfriend of victim Jason, survived the crash but suffered life-changing injuries and is still recovering, a pre-inquest review heard.
Pilot Scott Booth, who was in a critical condition, also survived but both his legs had to be amputated, Mr Healy Pratt said.
He told the packed inquest: ‘This accident was survivable. This accident was preventable.
‘Further and future innocent lives are at risk without adequate crash-resistant fuel systems.’
The lawyer added: ‘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.’
The Hill brothers were so badly burned investigators struggled to identify their remains, US autopsy reports released in May revealed.
Mr 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: ‘This terrible tragedy earlier this year is just another example of innocent people losing their lives. More needs to be done.
‘There’s no rule that forces helicopters to retro-fit safer fuel tanks and that is something the families have very serious concerns with.’
Parents of all five who died attended the proceedings today.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mr Healy-Pratt, who is the head of aviation at firm Stewarts Law, said there ‘may be a link’ between the Grand Canyon crash and the accident in Leicester.
Leicester FC owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others were killed when his helicopter fell to the ground and was engulfed by flames.
He added: ‘The families are very concerned there are helicopters flying around the UK that are not fitted with crash resistant fuel systems.
‘This is a matter of national importance.’
The parents of Jonathan Udall have already launched a wrongful death lawsuit against tour operator Tour operator Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters and manufacturer Airbus.
They are also suing the helicopter pilot for negligence in a separate lawsuit.
Crash-resistant fuel systems – which cost around $75,000 (£55,557) to fit – should be made ‘mandatory’ Mr Healy-Pratt said.
He added: ‘What price do you put on human lives?’.
A report into the accident is likely to be published by the US National Transportation Safety Board in February.
Coroner Penelope Schofield said the full inquest is likely to take place in the autumn next year.
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Source : https://metro.co.uk/2018/12/04/grand-canyon-crash-killed-five-brits-prevented-8208339/