A helicopter went down in rugged terrain shortly before nightfall, requiring specially trained rescuers. Authorities reported that four people survived the crash which had claimed the lives of three British tourists.
The pilot and three passengers survived the helicopter crash at Grand Canyon and were undergoing treatment at a hospital in the US state of Nevada. Meanwhile, rescue crews were working to recover the bodies of three people who were killed on impact.
All six passengers were British, the UK foreign ministry said on Sunday.
The helicopter was flying near the Grand Canyon's West Rim when it went down, crashing in difficult terrain late on Saturday. It took rescuers about eight hours to get the survivors to a hospital, according to Hualapai Nation Police Chief Francis Bradley. The four survivors were admitted to a trauma center with severe injuries.
In addition to the rugged terrain, Bradley said rescue crews had to navigate high winds and darkness Saturday night.
"First responders had to be flown in and walk to the crash site," he said. "Quartermaster Canyon is an extremely remote area. We had to call in specially trained crews — people with night-vision goggles."
He added that National Transportation Safety Board officials were set to visit the site and open a probe.
"We are in the recovery and investigation mode now," Bradley said, referring to the recovery of the three bodies.
The Federal Aviation Administration also will be investigating the crash of the Eurocopter EC130, according to its spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
Flying sightseeing tours
The chopper was with Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopter company which provides sightseeing tours for visitors.
Papillon's website said the company flies about 600,000 passengers a year around the Grand Canyon and along other routes. It also said the company "abides by flight safety rules and regulations that substantially exceed the regulations required by the Federal Aviation Administration."
Papillon also suffered a deadly helicopter crash in August 2001. That chopper crashed and burned near Meadview, Arizona. The pilot and five passengers died.
A National Transportation and Safety Board report issued in 2004 blamed the pilot for the crash, saying he to descended too fast and too close to the scenic Grand Wash Cliffs — northwest of the Grand Canyon.
Papillon, which is based in Nevada, did not respond to calls and emails on Sunday.
bik,dj/sms (AP, AFP)