$100 Million Nevada Settlement Awarded to Family of Helicopter Crash Victims

A Nevada judge has approved a $100 million cash settlement for the parents of a British tourist, who was among five people killed in a helicopter crash and fire in the Grand Canyon in 2018. The five British tourists included the newly married couple were enjoying their honeymoon on the Grand Canyon tour.

Falling helicopter in flames

ByErin O'Brien


Published on January 30, 2024

Falling helicopter in flames

Case Summary

According to the FAA, helicopter accidents occur on an average of 20 times per 100,000 flying hours in the U.S. This statistic illustrates the potential danger of flying a helicopter. It brings awareness to the fact that, despite many safety measures in place, helicopter accidents happen.

In this case, Jonathan Udall, 31, and his wife, Ellie, were on vacation in Las Vegas. As well as celebrating one of the group members' 30th birthday, the Udalls were celebrating their recent marriage.

In a settlement approved by a Nevada judge on Friday, Jonathan's parents will receive $24.6 million from Papillon Airways Inc., which operated the helicopter, and $75 million from Airbus Helicopters SAS, which manufactured it.

As a result of the helicopter's lack of a crash-resistant fuel system, plaintiffs claimed that the helicopter was unsafe to fly. As a result of the crash, the Udall’s son, Jonathan, was left with burns on 90% of his body when the helicopter burst into flames on impact. After 12 days in an intensive burn unit, Udall succumbed to his injuries.

Gary C. Robb, the family's lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, said the terms of the settlement must be made public. Mr. Udall's parents want to raise awareness about aircraft fuel tanks that are more likely to rupture. The family of the deceased says the fuel tank was basically a firebomb, Attorney Robb told the press. He went on to say that the plaintiffs insisted the settlement terms be made public to raise awareness about aircraft fuel tank explosions.

The defendants’ lawyers, Eric Lyttle for Airbus Helicopters Inc., and William Katt for Papillon Airways confirmed the terms as per a transcript of a hearing in Clark County District Court.

Helicopter crashes involving tourists are not uncommon. From 1984 to 2022, 54 commercial helicopters crashed in the Hawaiian Islands, on average one to two per year. 57 people were killed in 15 fatal crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Most of these fatal crashes were caused by pilots flying into deteriorating weather conditions. Hawaii helicopter crashes are also caused by pilot error, inadequate maintenance, and mechanical defects.

Expert Witness Involvement

This case required experts in aviation, particularly recreational helicopter mechanical expertise, and regulations, in addition to an expert in aircraft fuel tanks. A damages consultant would opine and provide supportive evidence for the claim.

About the author

Erin O'Brien

Erin O'Brien

Erin O'Brien is a senior medico-legal writer and editor, with 25 years of experience authoring healthcare deliverables. Previously, Erin authored an award-winning column in the health and wellness sector, guest hosted a wellness radio show, and received an FMA Charlie Award for Excellence in Writing.

Erin has reviewed and completed case studies for thousands of medical malpractice cases, both plaintiff and defense nationwide, and was presented the US Chamber of Commerce Best Small Business Blue Ribbon designation.  Erin is an experienced Medical Risk Consultant and device start-up project manager. She has consulted for numerous successful healthcare and bio-tech start-ups. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree at the University Of Wisconsin, Erin pursued an educational background in Healthcare Risk Management at the University of South Florida. Erin crafts her work with attention to detail, readability, healthcare marketing regulations, and medical standard of care.

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