A witness to a horrific helicopter crash that claimed the lives of three British tourists has revealed how she spent nine long hours attempting to give emergency treatment to the injured victims as they awaited rescue.
Becky Dobson, 27, her partner Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother Jason Hill, 32, were on the “holiday of a lifetime” when they were killed during a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon at the weekend. Nurse Katie Kineally was heading to Las Vegas with her family to celebrate her mother’s 90th birthday when she witnessed the horrific incident and rushed to help.
“There were people screaming. We just heard these inhuman screams of pain,” Kineally recalled.
On Saturday, the nurse anesthetist was on her own helicopter ride that was stopped near Quartermaster Canyon when a ghastly noise of whirring helicopter blades and an explosion ripped through the silence of this beautiful setting.
“As soon as we got to the edge of the cliff, we could just see the smoke billowing up,” Kineally said, as reported by Las Vegas Now. Instinctively, Kineally slid down the rocky terrain and ran towards the fiery wreckage to offer any assistance she could.
“The other gentleman was just screaming. It was echoing throughout the canyon. It was just horrific,” Kineally said. As the day marched on, bystanders threw clothing down to keep the crash victims warm, as Kineally administered IV’s and helped first responders treat the gravely injured group of British tourists.
“I had an EMT standing over with a flashlight because I couldn’t see anything, and I did it mostly by feel because she needed more fluid, she was getting really shocky,” Kineally explained. As rescue teams figured out a way to evacuate the victims from the inaccesible crash site, Kineally realized that they were running out of pain medication.
“They were so brave because there were times when we had to say, ‘we don’t have any more pain medication right now. We’re going to just have to have you focus and breathe for me, breath for me, hold my hand, keep talking to me,’ and you know, that was probably the hardest part,” she explained.
Conrad Fish, 19, from the UK, was also one of the first on the scene. “They were all in a very bad way – they had wounds all over their bodies,” he said, as reported by the Evening Standard.
“Adrenaline kicked in and all I did was help carry equipment down and help the fire brigade down. The real heroes were the doctors that kept the survivors alive.”
Nurse Kineally explained how one woman she was treating just kept on yelling her boyfriend’s name “Jason!”, wondering what had happened to him. Tragically, Jason Hill was one of the occupants that didn’t make it out alive. “Her significant other was one of the men that were not able to make it out. She just kept screaming his name over and over, wanting to know what happened,” Kineally said.
Eventually, after a long nine hours, those who were still alive were flown out to nearby hospitals for further treatment. Britons Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39, were injured in the crash, along with pilot Scott Booth, 42, are currently in critical condition.
Kineally explained the extraordinary courage of those who risked their lives to help the injured crash victims. “What amazed me is no matter how bad things are in the world, people still come together in a tragedy,” she said.
Father of the two men killed and local pastor Rev. David Hill said in a statement that his sons were “inseparable brothers” and “remarkable people” who will be “deeply missed by so many people,” as reported by the BBC.
“We always said they were so close they were like twins and we will find some support in knowing they were with each other to the last,” the statement added.
“The two brothers loved each other and were very close, and so our misfortune is their support – because they went together, and I will thank God every day for them,” Hill continued.
“They were truly loved by lots of people. They were incredibly close, and as parents we feel blessed to have had them, but a light has truly gone out. Six of them went out for my son’s 30th birthday. They had saved for a year to go, and it was a helicopter accident. We are absolutely devastated.”
“We will thank God every day for having them in our lives.”
Ms Dobson’s father, Peter Dobson, said his daughter was “full of life” and “always happy.”
The accident reportedly occurred in front of a wedding party just after they had taken their vows.
Las Vegas pastor, Lionel Douglass, was the man presiding over the wedding. He recalled the horrific scenes following what should have been a joy-filled day of celebration.
“After performing a wedding I usually give the newly married couple a few minutes to spend by themselves, drinking champagne, etc,” he told Daily Mail. “I noticed a helicopter coming into the Grand Canyon and I saw it making a circle and I said to myself, “that’s not where they usually land.”
“I turned to my helicopter pilot and asked about the helicopter in the air, and as soon as we turned around and I looked at it, it tilted, went down, broke in half, then hit the ground and there was a big explosion,” he said.
“I grabbed my phone and zoomed in just in hopes of finding someone alive, before I knew it there was a lady walking from the crash. I just lost it. I said, “there is someone walking!’
“I went into panic mode,” Douglass recalled. “At least there was a survivor. In this tragedy God is still here, because someone walked out of there.”
“The woman was dizzy and dazed. She was screaming,” he added.
“Several of the wedding party tried to help.”
Tourist Kaitlyn Rodriguez, who was on another helicopter tour when the chopper went down, wrote on Facebook: “I was on this tour and moments after our helicopter landed, witnessed the crash. My amazingly brave mother, along with several others, trekked down into the ravine to assist the survivors.
“We were stranded in the Grand Canyon for hours, my Mom being at the bottom administering medical attention to the survivors for over 10 hours. So very proud of her and all who helped the victims of the crash. Such a tragic accident.”
The helicopter’s pilot, Scott Booth, 42, works part-time at Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters – a company that offers aerial tours of this stunning landscape. Scott has had to undergo surgery and was likely to require “several more,” according to a funding page set up to help cover his medical bills.
“Scott was, STILL is, one of the nicest, kindest human beings on the face of the planet. He would always offer to help if someone was in need, and would often crack a joke while doing it,” the GoFundMe page detailed.
“This man and his family need our help.”
Over $30,000 has been raised so far.
At this time, the cause of the accident remains unclear, as investigators try to piece together what went wrong. It appears that winds in the canyon were very strong, which may have been a factor.
“Once the wreckage has been recovered, we will start to gather archive information relating to the pilot, the aircraft and the environment,” national transportation safety board investigator Stephen Stein told a press conference in Nevada on Monday.
According to aviation attorney Gary C. Robb, investigators are likely to pay close attention to Papillon’s EC-130 helicopter, which tends to be without a system to prevent it from exploding on impact, denying passengers a few extra minutes to try to escape.
The helicopter crashed as it was surveying the Hualapai reservation area of the Grand Canyon. This stretch of the canyon is popular with aerial sightseeing companies as it is not subject to the same federal aviation regulations that restrict many of the other areas of the national park. The NTSB is unlikely to detail any conclusive cause of the crash before releasing their final report on the incident sometime next year.
The investigation continues.