A helicopter carrying tourists through the Grand Canyon crashed on Saturday evening due to still-unknown causes. Three passengers died following impact, and another four people were critically injured, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Fox News adds word from the Federal Aviation Administration that the helicopter sustained substantial damage when it hit the ground.
A CNN affiliate relays word from witness Teddy Fujimoto, who says that the fiery condition of the helicopter’s wreckage further resulted in an explosion moments after two bloodied women emerged. Fujimoto captured this photo, which has been tweeted by Gerard Ramalho of Las Vegas’ NBC affiliate, of the smoke-filled scene.
In the hours after the crash, first responders experienced great difficulty in reaching the survivors, due to the rugged, dark, and windy conditions of the Quartermaster Canyon area where the accident occurred. The evacuation process was an overnight one and required military assistance from Las Vegas’ Nellis Air Force Base.
The helicopter, which was carrying six passengers and one pilot, was operated by Papillion Airways, a tourism-based operation that bills itself as the “the world’s largest aerial sightseeing company” with over 600,000 claimed annual passengers. The FAA has commenced an investigation into the accident.