Sarah Stewart represented the bereaved families of the victims of the Papillon Grand Canyon helicopter crash at the inquest into their deaths this week. The Stewarts team has instructed Kate Boakes, counsel at 12KBW.

Stewarts’ aviation team was instructed by the loved ones of four British tourists who died during a helicopter sight-seeing tour in February 2018. The inquest has taken place in Horsham before the coroner for West Sussex, Senior Coroner Schofield.

As part of a holiday of a lifetime, six young British friends paid for an expensive sunset helicopter sight-seeing tour over the Grand Canyon. The pilot lost control of the helicopter, which crashed on approach to land and fell into a ravine. A post-crash fuel tank explosion resulted in thermal fatalities and injuries. Three of the six passengers died at the scene. Two died in hospital several weeks later leaving one survivor.


Legal proceedings to date

Stewarts has been instructed on behalf of the families of four of the victims and the sole survivor. The civil claims have previously been resolved but the inquest had been delayed while the air safety investigation was ongoing. Slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic, the investigation lasted almost three years. The National Transportation Safety Board finally released their report in January 2021.

After considering the report, the Senior Coroner for West Sussex instructed an aviation engineering expert to produce a report for her into the helicopter’s fuel tanks, and the impact that a Crash Resistant Fuel System (CRFS) would have had on the survivability of the accident.

The coroner’s expert concluded that deaths could have been prevented had a CRFS been installed and as a result the coroner will make recommendations to prevent future deaths from occurring.


Sarah Stewart says:

“Today is about getting answers for the families so they can move on with their lives without their loved ones. Our Families would like to thank the Senior Coroner for the thoroughness of her investigation and for the answers this has given them.

“They welcome her verdict and her recommendations.

The fuel tank issues were only one piece in the jigsaw of how the helicopter came to crash on 10 February 2018 but it is clear from the evidence heard by the Coroner that further regulation is needed to protect the safety of British passengers and public.

Whilst we cannot turn the clock back, through the coroner’s recommendations we hope that we can implement change to prevent future deaths from occurring and to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated.”


Media coverage

A summary of this coverage in the press can be found here:

UK safety calls after Grand Canyon crash inquest – BBC News, 19 November 2021

Daily Mail , 17 November 2021



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