Three British tourists killed in helicopter crash at Grand Canyon

Three British tourists killed in helicopter crash at Grand Canyon

A tourist helicopter has crashed in the Grand Canyon in Arizona, leaving three people dead and a further four injured.

Strong winds, darkness and hard terrain hindered the rescue of those injured, with the casualties taken to hospital by helicopter after 9 p.m. local time, CNN reported.

Police chief Francis Bradley told CNN: "We are having difficulties getting the four people out of the crash site area to the hospital".

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

On its website, Papillon bills itself as the world's largest aerial sightseeing company, with helicopter tours that take off from Las Vegas and Grand Canyon National Park, including special packages that cater to time-strapped visitors to Las Vegas.

Winds in the area picked up in the Saturday afternoon with gusts up to 45 miles per hour, but the cause of the crash is not immediately known.

The helicopter was on a tour of the canyon, one of the top USA tourist destinations and more than a mile deep, when it went down on Saturday at around 5.20pm.

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Rescuers got an assist from military aircraft from Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and were in the process of evacuating the injured overnight, Bradley said.

A local photographer, Teddy Fujimoto, was filming a nearby wedding, and told reporters he heard the explosion and witnessed the "horrible" aftermath of survivors screaming for help.

Several incidents involving Papillon Airways, also known as Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, have been investigated in the past two decades. The terrain where the crash occurred in Quartermaster Canyon is extremely rugged.

Tours from the Grand Canyon West Rim range from £150 to £220.

Papillon has not yet issued a public statement.

Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said: "Local authorities say that at least seven people were on board the helicopter". The pilot and five passengers - who were all from NY - died.

A Papillon helicopter was previously involved in a fatal Grand Canyon crash in 2001.

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