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Our aviation team is representing the loved ones of four British tourists who died after their Airbus tour helicopter crashed at the Grand Canyon in February.
At the pre-inquest review on Tuesday 4 December 2018 at the West Sussex coroner’s court James Healy-Pratt, Head of Aviation, told the coroner that the crash could have been prevented.
“This accident was survivable. This accident was preventable. Further and future innocent lives are at risk without adequate crash-resistant fuel systems.”
James added there was “insufficient regulatory action” by authorities in Europe and the US. Also that manufacturers, operators and owners have not done enough to warn passengers of the dangers.
“In the EU there’s no rule that forces helicopter operators to retro-fit safer fuel tanks and that is something the families have very serious concerns with.”
Over the past 25 years, the helicopter tour companies around the Grand Canyon area have suffered 25 deaths and more than 40 injured passengers.
The helicopter operator, Papillon, has had eight accidents with 11 deaths and 13 injured. Just over 15 years ago, Papillon suffered three accidents in three years including the deadliest since 1995 when six passengers were killed and the sole survivor lost both her legs in 2001.
Papillon management put those accidents down to bad luck, but the US air safety investigators highlighted poor maintenance and pilot error as the probable causes.
Shortly after the crash, James commented:
“The news of this recent terrible accident is yet another wake up call to the US Federal Aviation Administration and the helicopter tour industry in the Grand Canyon area to finally get their house in order. It is clear that further regulation is needed to protect the safety of tourists.”
A report on the accident is due to be published in February by the US National Transportation Safety Board and another pre-inquest review will take place in the UK in March.
The coroner, Penelope Schofield, said the full inquest was likely to take place in autumn 2019.
James’ comments regarding the preventable nature of this crash have featured in the press reporting of this incident:
The Guardian – Grand Canyon helicopter crash ‘could have been prevented’
BBC – Grand Canyon fatal helicopter crash ‘was preventable’
The Times (subscription required) – Grand Canyon helicopter crash linked to Leicester City tragedy
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