‘We heard inhuman screams of pain’
DRAMATIC footage of the Grand Canyon helicopter crash which killed three Brits shows a stunned survivor scramble to safety as the wreckage burns behind her.
The footage was taken by Minister Lionel Douglass, 63, who had just finished marrying a British couple when the chopper clipped a cliff face and plunged 200 metres, reports The Sun.
Stuart Hill, celebrating his 30th birthday, his girlfriend Becky Dobson, 27, and his brother Jason, 32, were killed.
Friends Jennifer Barham, 39, and honeymooning couple Ellie Milward, 29, and Jonathan Udall, 32, were fighting for their lives in hospital last night.
He told The Sun: "I was just finishing up a wedding - the couple, from London, were happy and looking at the Grand Canyon."
It was then that he said he noticed the helicopter making "weird manoeuvres" as if it was looking for somewhere to land.
Mr Douglass added: "I yelled to the pilot who brought me in, 'What is he doing?'
"As soon as we turned back and looked it tilted, went down, broke in half and crashed with a big explosion.
"The tail end of the helicopter hit the cliff - which snapped it off - then it slammed down to the ground."
Mr Douglass, from Las Vegas, grabbed the camera on his mobile phone and zoomed in to try and identify if there were survivors.
He then captured a dark-haired woman emerging from the inferno.
He said: "The woman was dizzy and dazed. She was screaming.
"Several of the wedding party tried to help."
A nurse who was visiting the Grand Canyon to celebrate her mother's 90th birthday came to the aid of the wounded Brits - treating one of the women who lost her partner in the crash for nine hours.
Anaesthetist Katie Kineally said: "There were people screaming. We just heard these inhuman screams of pain.
"As soon as we got to the edge of the cliff, we could just see the smoke billowing up.
"The other gentleman was just screaming. It was echoing throughout the canyon. It was just horrific."
She rushed to help immediately after the crash at 5.20pm (12.20am AEDT) local time.
Winds gusting at 80 kilometres meant rescuers had to wait to take the injured to hospital.
As night fell sightseers on the cliff above threw down clothing to help her keep Jennifer, Ellie and Jonathan warm as she worked side-by-side with paramedics.
She administered IVs by torchlight and recalled: "I did it mostly by feel."
She added: "They were so brave because there were times when we had to say, 'We don't have any more pain medication right now.
"'We're going to just have to have you focus and breathe for me, hold my hand, keep talking to me.'
Kineally is thought to have been concentrating mostly on Barham.
She said: "Her significant other was one of the men that were not able to make it out.
"She just kept screaming his name over and over, wanting to know what happened."
The surviving passengers were eventually flown to University Medical Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada, along with pilot Scott Booth, 42.
Reverend David Hill, the brothers' father, said: "The two brothers loved each other and were very close, and so our misfortune is their support - because they went together, and I will thank God every day for them."
Holding back tears, he went on: "They were truly loved by lots of people. They were incredibly close, and as parents we feel blessed to have had them, but a light has truly gone out.
"Six of them went out for my son's 30th birthday. They had saved for a year to go, and it was a helicopter accident. We are absolutely devastated."
Friends paid tribute to Stuart Hill's girlfriend Becky Dobson, 27, who described her as a "lovely person inside and out".
Dobson, who worked in a pet shop, last year travelled around Australia. Her profile on her work website, she described her love for animals and her dream of becoming a veterinary nurse.
She said: "I also love to travel the world and explore what is out there beyond good old Worthing."
It is not yet clear what caused the deadly crash.
But the firm behind the crash has been at the centre of a dozen aviation probes, it has been claimed.
Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, operated from Boulder City, Nevada, has had at least three other fatal crashes in the last 20 years.
That includes a 2001 disaster near the Canyon when a tour pilot lost control of the chopper, killing himself and five others.
And it has now been claimed that the crash happened on Native American tribal land where there are fewer regulations governing flight tours, the Chicago Tribune reports.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are providing support to the families of six British visitors involved in a helicopter accident at the Grand Canyon on February 10, and we are in close contact with the US emergency services."
This story was originally published in The Sun and is reprinted with permission.