$100M Awarded to Family of Las Vegas Tourist Killed in Helicopter Crash

Posted on: January 10, 2024, 03:44h. 

Last updated on: January 11, 2024, 12:05h.

A Clark County judge approved awarding $100M to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of one of five British tourists. The sightseers were killed when a helicopter that took off near Las Vegas crashed and burst into flames in 2018.

A helicopter burns after crashing on the west rim of the Grand Canyon o
A helicopter burns after crashing on the west rim of the Grand Canyon on, Feb. 10, 2018. Five British tourists were killed. (Image: Teddy Fujimoto via Associated Press)

The family of Jonathan Udall, 31, whose newlywed wife was also killed in the crash, will receive $24.6M from the Boulder City, Nev. operator of the helicopter, Papillon Airways, and $75.4M from its French manufacturer, Airbus Helicopters SAS.

The family’s lawsuit alleged that the helicopter was unsafe because it didn’t have a crash-resistant fuel system, which became a Federal Aviation Administration requirement for helicopters built after 2020.

The fuel tank was basically a fire bomb,” the family’s attorney, Gary C. Robb of Kansas City, Mo., told the Associated Press on Monday. “The fuel pours onto the passengers, then ignites. It’s just horrible.

“The three people on the right side of the aircraft never escaped,” Robb continued. “They were completely burned in their seats.”

Jonathan Udall and his wife, Ellie Milward Udall, shortly before their tragic deaths in 2018. (Image: People)

The Fateful Day

Udall and his 29-year-old bride, Ellie Milward Udall, boarded the Airbus EC130 B4 in Boulder City, Nev. on Feb. 10, 2018, along with three other British tourists, including Rebecca Dobson, 27, Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother, Jason Hill, 32.

They were on their way to celebrate Stuart’s birthday on the Hualapai reservation’s section of the Grand Canyon, which lies outside the borders of the national park.

According to an initial National Transportation Safety Board report, the helicopter most likely was felled by unexpected tailwinds, potential downdrafts, and turbulence. The Udalls both died of burn injuries after the crash. His parents claimed in the lawsuit that he could have survived if not for the post-crash fire.

“They don’t want anyone else to go through what their son went through in an otherwise survivable accident — not a broken bone,” Robb told AP. “He [Jonathan] would have walked away.”

Two others survived the crash, including passenger Jennifer Barham, who escaped with a spinal fracture, and the pilot, Scott Booth, who had to have both legs amputated.

A spokesperson for Papillon Helicopters told AP on Tuesday that crash-resistant fuel cells were installed on the company’s entire fleet of helicopters once the FAA required them to be.

“We continue to extend our sympathies to the families of the victims and now close this difficult chapter in our history,” the spokesperson said.