On Feb. 10, a Papillon aerial tour helicopter carrying a group of six tourists from the United Kingdom crashed into the Grand Canyon seriously injuring the pilot, three of the tourists and killing the three remaining tourists.
According to Hualapai Police Chief Francis Bradley, the helicopter went down at around 5:20 p.m. while flying through an area of Grand Canyon National Park known as Quartermaster Canyon.
Bradley said that rescue efforts went on until around 2 a.m. Sunday morning due to the rough terrain and high wind gusts. Those injured in the crash had to wait in the canyon until it was deemed safe for a rescue helicopter to come in and lift those people out of the canyon.
“Yesterday we were hampered by severe weather conditions, we had gusts of wind up to 50 miles per hour, and the terrain where the crash occurred in Quartermaster Canyon was extremely rugged,” said Bradley in a televised press conference Feb. 11.
So far, no other details have been released as to the circumstances of the crash, which involved a Eurocopter EC130.
The Papillon Group, the company that operated the aerial tour service, released an official statement regarding the crash. Chief Executive Officer Brenda Halvorson offered condolences to the families of those involved in the crash and said that they are cooperating with investigators.
“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. Family members seeking immediate assistance, please call 1-886-512-9121. We are cooperating fully with NTSB investigators and local authorities,” said Halvorson.
On Jan. 2, the company put out a press release announcing that they were installing new maintenance and engineering software on all 80 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft in their fleet.
“Ramco Systems, the global aviation software provider on Cloud and Mobile, today announced that it has secured an order from the world’s largest and longest running aerial tour company, Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, to install Ramco Aviation Suite V5.8, for maintenance and engineering operations of its fleet,” Ramco stated in a press release.
Ramco is an aviation software corporation that provides aviation products for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Their helicopter software gives up-to-the-minute information and data to the pilot for both ground and in-flight operations according to their website.
As for the weather conditions in the canyon at the time of the crash, it was clear skies, but windy. According to National Weather Service, winds near the time of the crash in the Grand Canyon area were averaging 10 miles per hour with gusts reaching 20 to 25 miles per hour, not the 50 mile per hour gusts Chief Bradley said hampered the rescue efforts.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are conducting the official investigation of the crash.