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My son died in 'flying bomb' helicopter… he should have survived

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THE parents of a honeymoon Brit who died in a helicopter crash said he would have survived if it wasn’t for the “milk bottle” fuel tank.

Jonathan Udall was burned on 90 per cent of his body when the “flying bomb” spun out of control and caught fire after hitting rocks in the Grand Canyon.

Jonathan's parents believe he would have survived the crash if it wasn't for the 'milk bottle' fuel tank

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Jonathan’s parents believe he would have survived the crash if it wasn’t for the ‘milk bottle’ fuel tankCredit: pixel8000
Jonathan's father, Philip Udall, likened the helicopter to a 'flying bomb'

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Jonathan’s father, Philip Udall, likened the helicopter to a ‘flying bomb’Credit: Sky News
A 2021 report concluded strong tailwinds likely caused the 2018 crash

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A 2021 report concluded strong tailwinds likely caused the 2018 crashCredit: AP

The 31-year-old, from Southampton, died after 12 days in hospital as a result of his burns, before new wife Ellie, 29, passed away a few days later.

Philip and Marlene Udall were awarded £78million in damages on Wednesday after suing for their son’s wrongful death.

A judge in Nevada ruled they should get £59million from France’s Airbus Helicopters SAS and £19million from operator Papillon Airways.

But Mr Udall’s parents are adamant that their son could have survived if it was not for the post-crash fire – caused by the helicopter’s fuel tank that they claim was prone to rupturing.

Speaking to Sky News, Philip Udall said: “There’s an issue with fuel tanks and helicopters in America – there’s a loophole in the law that allows helicopters to fly without a crash resistant fuel system.

“In other words, it’s basically a ‘flying bomb’ – those are our lawyer’s words.

“It’s a plastic container about as good as a milk bottle that you’ve got the fuel in.

“When the helicopter goes down, it just fractures and the fuel is out.”

Mr Udall adds that the issue with fuel tanks has been going on since 1994.

Alongside his wife, he aimed to highlight this during their legal battle.

The Udalls’ lawyer, Gary C Robb, said: “The family wanted to shine a spotlight on this . . . too many helicopters have this very unsafe, flimsy fuel tank.”

Mr Robb said the hard-plastic tanks were prone to rupture in hard landings, adding: “The fuel pours on to the passengers, then ignites. It’s just horrible.”

A 2021 report concluded strong tailwinds likely caused the crash.

Three of Jonathan’s pals were riding in the helicopter and also lost their lives as a result of the crash.

Becky Dobson, 27, Stuart Hill, 30, and Jason Hill, 32, all of West Sussex, died at the scene in 2018.

Pilot Scott Booth lost both legs. Jennifer Barham also survived.

Papillon has since fitted safer fuel tanks.

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