Grand Canyon crash helicopter firm Airbus 'increase crash-resistant fuel tanks'

Airbus Helicopters has insisted it is increasing the number of aircraft being built with crash-resistant fuel systems after it was sued over the Grand Canyon crash that killed five Britons.

The parents of Jonathan Udall, 31, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer and tour operator Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, claiming their son could have survived if the technology to slow the spread of flames had been installed.

Mr Udall, originally from Southampton, and his wife Ellie Milward, 29, died as a result of the burns they sustained during the February 10 crash during their honeymoon.

In a statement on Sunday, Airbus Helicopters said it is "taking the necessary steps" to install the fuel systems as standard on its new light and medium-class helicopters.

Stuart Hill, 30 (left) and his brother Jason Hill, 32 (Family handout/PA)
Stuart Hill, 30 (left) and his brother Jason Hill, 32 (Family handout/PA)

When asked, a spokeswoman clarified that the plans had been in place ahead of the crash and the lawsuit, which is seeking damages from the business.

"The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is leading the investigation into the cause of the accident with Airbus's full support. As standard for any such investigation, we cannot comment further," she added.

Three of the couple's friends - Becky Dobson, 27, her boyfriend Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother Jason Hill, 32, all from Worthing, West Sussex - died at the scene of the crash.

Lawyers for Philip and Marlene Udall, of Southampton, claim in the lawsuit filed in Nevada that their son would not have sustained "severe and catastrophic" burns if the Airbus EC130 B4 had been fitted the fuel system.

They are also suing pilot Scott Booth, who was hospitalised in a critical condition, accusing him of negligence for crashing.

Also named in the lawsuit are Papillon directors Brenda Halvorson and Elling Halvorson, president Geoff Edlund and chief operating officer John Becker. The family allege they failed to ensure the helicopter was in a "safe and defect free" condition.

They also accuse mechanic Matthew Hecker and its inspector Daniel Friedman of negligence over the state of the helicopter, in particular its tail rotor.

Ms Halvorson criticised the lawsuit as "extremely premature and misguided" for coming before the completion of the NTSB investigation, which is not expected for at least a year.

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