The first pictures have been released of the three British tourists killed in a helicopter crash at the Grand Canyon.
Jason Hill, 32, was killed alongside his younger brother Stuart Hill, 30, and his girlfriend Becky Dobson, 27, a veterinary receptionist from Worthing, in the incident at the tourist attraction in Arizona at 5.20pm local time on Saturday.
Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39, were airlifted to University Medical Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada, along with pilot Scott Booth, 42, according to Arizona Central.
The six friends booked a sightseeing tour of the Grand Canyon as part of a trip celebrating solicitor Stuart’s 30th birthday.
The Reverend David Hill paid tribute to his sons, describing the brothers, originally from Worthing, as “incredibly close”.
He said: “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.”
He added: “Six of them went out for my son’s 30th birthday. They had saved for a year to go, and it was a helicopter accident. We are absolutely devastated.”
Mr Hill worked for Shoosmiths Solicitors and was about to become a partner, his family said.
Local media said it took rescuers more than eight hours to get to the survivors 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.
Three people were killed in the crash of a tour helicopter in the Grand Canyon. Teddy Fujimoto captured video shortly after the helicopter went down.
►Details here: https://t.co/GwtNMjdFMv pic.twitter.com/wWaesSRdO5
— WOWT 6 News (@WOWT6News) February 11, 2018
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.
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Mr Bradley described the weather conditions as “not normal”, but said no flight restrictions were in place.
He told News3LV that darkness and an initial lack of air support hampered the rescue effort.
Eyewitness 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 tour was run by Papillon, who say on their website that they are “the largest and most experienced helicopter tour operator in the world”.
Papillon chief executive Brenda Halvorson said in a statement: “It is with extreme sadness we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families involved in this accident.
“Our top priority is the care and needs of our passengers and our staff.”
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the Eurocopter EC130 crashed in unknown circumstances and sustained heavy damage.
An investigation into the accident will now take place.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are providing support to the families of six British visitors involved in a helicopter accident at the Grand Canyon on February 10, and we are in close contact with the US emergency services.”