Grand Canyon helicopter crash victim’s father vows to campaign for helicopter safety | UK | News

January 11, 2024
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The father of a British tourist killed in a Grand Canyon helicopter crash has described the aircraft as “a flying bomb”.

Jonathan, 31, and Ellie Udall, 29, were on a honeymoon trip to the Grand Canyon when it crashed.

The aircraft’s fuel tank then ignited and the couple died in hospital from burns and injuries.

Jonathan’s parents, of Southampton, claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit that their son could have survived if it was not for the post-crash fire – caused by the helicopter’s fuel tank that they claim was prone to rupturing.

The couple recently received a £78million payout and now Jonathan’s father Philip Udall, 70, says he wants to use the money to campaign for better helicopter safety. The former college lecturer said: “Everybody is relieved that the case is now over.

“We’ve kept quiet for six years because we had to and now the shackles have been taken off.”

Mr Udall will now push for all helicopters to be fitted with a “crash-resistant fuel system” which he says will help prevent fires breaking out after crashes.

“We are now looking at what we can do because there are still a lot of people climbing into helicopters not aware of what they are sitting on,” he said.

“It needs to change and something needs to happen.”

He called for other flight companies to ensure they have crash-resistant fuel systems, “before another one happens”.

On the substantial payout, from helicopter operator Papillon Airways and manufacturer Airbus Helicopters, he said: “It’s not about the money – it means nothing to us. It’s much bigger than us, we now have a resource we can call on, we can use to try and get this situation improved. And that was the reason for doing it. We don’t need a big wodge of money through the door.

“How much money do you need to live on?”

Mr Udall said they had already provided equipment to the burns unit at a British hospital and are looking to continue to offer support to those injured.

“The most important thing is that we can do what we can to move the clock on so there are no ‘flying bombs’ and they’re all gone,” he added.

Despite his son’s death nearly six years ago, Mr Udall said it still feels like it “could have been yesterday”.

The newlyweds were on the helicopter trip with three friends. 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. The friends were jointly celebrating Stuart’s birthday and the Udalls’ wedding with a trip to Las Vegas.

Mr Udall said: “It’s the sort of thing every parent dreads.”

Paying tribute to his son and daughter-in-law, he added: “They were perfect – they had it all. When we sit down as a family there will always be two empty seats.”



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