Parents of British victim of Grand Canyon helicopter crash to get £79m

Parents of British victim of Grand Canyon helicopter crash to get £79m
Parents of British victim of Grand Canyon helicopter crash to get £79m

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - PHOENIX, Arizona — The parents of a British man who died after a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon are to receive a £79m payout.

Jonathan Udall, 31, was one of five Britons, including his new wife, who died after the aircraft crashed and burst into flames in February 2018.

He suffered burns to 90% of his body and died after 12 days in hospital.

A lawsuit brought by his parents said he could have survived had the helicopter been fitted with systems to help prevent the fire.

Udall and wife Ellie Milward, 29, were visiting the US with friends Becky Dobson, 27, her boyfriend Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother, Jason Hill, 32, to celebrate their recent marriage and Stuart Hill's birthday.

The group were on board an Airbus EC130 B4 helicopter in Arizona when it spun out of control and crashed as it came in to land.

Ms Dobson, Stuart Hill, and Jason Hill were all pronounced dead at the scene, while Ms Milward died a few days after her husband, also from burn injuries.

Lawyers for Udall's parents, Philip and Marlene Udall, of Southampton, argued the French manufacturer of the helicopter, Airbus Helicopters SAS, and its operator, Papillon Airways, negligently failed to install a crash-resistant fuel tank.

They argued Udall would not have sustained "severe and catastrophic burns" if such a system had been installed.

Under a settlement approved by a Nevada judge on Friday, the couple will receive $75.4m (£59.3m) from Airbus Helicopters SAS, and $24.6m (£19.4m) from Papillon Airways.

A statement issued by their lawyer, Gary C Robb, said they hoped the outcome would encourage manufacturers to improve the safety of helicopters so that "no other parents have to go through what they went through with their son."

Robb told the PA news agency that the family wanted to "shine a spotlight on this public health issue because there are too many helicopters that have this very unsafe, flimsy fuel tank".

"When the helicopter makes a hard landing, it opens up and pours fuel onto the passengers, soaks them in the fuel, and then it ignites and they are then covered in flame," he said.

"It is horrific. And it should be corrected immediately."

He added that and Mrs Udall plan to use some of the money to promote helicopter safety and provide support for burn survivors.

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board, the US government agency responsible for investigating civil transportation accidents, said in 2021 that the Grand Canyon crash was probably caused by a loss of control due to a strong tailwind.

The pilot, Scott Booth, who survived, though has since had both his legs amputated, told investigators that the craft began to spin after being hit by a "violent gust of wind". — BBC

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