4 survivors of tour helicopter crash in Grand Canyon rescued

FILE - This Oct. 5, 2013 file photo, the Grand Canyon National Park is covered in the morning sunlight as seen from a helicopter near Tusayan, Ariz. An effort by the Grand Canyon to make a lucrative contract more attractive to bidders means the park will defer planned spending on new lighting, cave monitoring, building a composting toilet and tracking an endangered fish that recently reappeared in the canyon, it was announced Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) — Four survivors of a tour helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon were airlifted to a Nevada hospital Sunday while crews were recovering the bodies of three others, authorities said.

Six passengers and a pilot were on board the Papillion Grand Canyon Helicopters chopper when it crashed under unknown circumstances around 5:20 p.m. Saturday on the Hualapai Nation near Quartermaster Canyon, which is near the Grand Canyon’s West Rim.

Hualapai Nation Police Chief Francis Bradley said the survivors were taken to a Las Vegas hospital as of 2 a.m. Sunday.

Authorities said the four were level 1 trauma patients. The identities and nationalities of the dead and injured weren’t immediately released.

“We are in the recovery and investigation mode now,” Bradley told The Associated Press.

Bradley said National Transportation Safety Board officials were expected at the crash scene by Sunday afternoon to begin investigating the cause.

The Federal Aviation Administration also will be investigating the crash of the Eurocopter EC130, spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.

Bradley said rescue crews were hampered by high winds and darkness Saturday night along with rugged terrain.

“First responders had to be flown in and walk to the crash site,” he said. “Quartermaster Canyon is an extremely remote area. We had to call in specially trained crews — people with night-vision goggles.”

Calls and emails to Nevada-based Papillion for comment on the crash were not immediately returned Sunday.

The company’s website says it flies roughly 600,000 passengers a year around the Grand Canyon and on other tours. It also notes that it “abides by flight safety rules and regulations that substantially exceed the regulations required by the Federal Aviation Administration.”

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