Parents of British man killed in Grand Canyon helicopter crash to get £78m settlement

10 January 2024, 08:13

Jonathan Udall and his wife Ellie both died from burns they suffered in the crash
Jonathan Udall and his wife Ellie both died from burns they suffered in the crash. Picture: Facebook

By Asher McShane

The parents of a British tourist who died after suffering burns in a helicopter crash during a tour of the Grand Canyon in 2018 are to receive a £78 million settlement.

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Jonathan Udall, 31, was one of five Britons, including his newlywed wife, who died after an Airbus helicopter crashed and then burst into flames on February 10.

The British tourist, who was honeymooning in Las Vegas, suffered burns over 90% of his body and died after spending 12 days in hospital following the crash.

His parents claimed in a lawsuit for wrongful death that their son, originally from Southampton, could have survived if not for the post-crash fire.

Under the settlement approved by a US judge in Clark County, Nevada on Friday, Jonathan's parents, Philip Udall and Marlene Udall, will receive 24.6 million dollars (£19.3 million) from the operator of the helicopter, Papillon Airways, and 75.4 million dollars (£59.3 million) from its French manufacturer, Airbus Helicopters SAS.

Stuart Hill, Becky Dobson, and Jason Hill, all died at the scene
Stuart Hill, Becky Dobson, and Jason Hill, all died at the scene. Picture: Facebook

Mr and Mrs Udall said they hoped the settlement would induce helicopter manufacturers to install safe technology so "no other parents" have to suffer their loss.

Their lawyer, Gary C Robb, said they planned to use a portion of the money from the settlement to promote helicopter safety and burn survivor support.

Mr Robb told the PA news agency: "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.

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"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.

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

The Airbus EC130 B4 was engulfed in flames after crashing at the Arizona tourist attraction shortly before sunset.

Veterinary receptionist Becky Dobson, 27, her boyfriend and car salesman Stuart Hill, 30, and Mr Hill's brother, 32-year-old lawyer Jason Hill were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Jonathan's wife, Ellie Udall, died of complications from burn injuries after being transferred to hospital.

The group of friends were in the US to celebrate Stuart Hill's birthday and the Udalls as newlyweds with a trip to Las Vegas.

Mr and Mrs Udall, in a statement issued through their lawyer, said: "They hope very much that this settlement will induce helicopter manufacturers to replace the dangerous fuel tank with safe technology so no other parents have to go through what they went through with their son."

A report by the National Transportation Safety Board in the US concluded in 2021 that a probable cause in the helicopter crash was the pilot losing control due to tailwind conditions.

The pilot, Scott Booth, told investigators that the aircraft had encountered a "violent gust of wind" and began to spin.

Mr Booth fractured his lower left leg, and passenger Jennifer Barham had a spinal fracture in the crash. They also suffered severe burns but survived. Since then, both of Mr Booth's legs have been amputated.