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NTSB begins probing fatal tour helicopter crash near Grand Canyon

"It is a contained site. There is evidence of post-crash fire", says Stephen Stein with NTSB.

This is all that's left after an Airbus EC-130 helicopter crashed near the Grand Canyon on Saturday killing three British tourists.

Now, it's up to the National Transportation Safety Board to figure out what went wrong.

Three areas to key on are weather conditions, mechanical systems, and the pilot himself, still hospitalized in critical condition.

"We'll be looking at the pilot's certificates and any ratings he may have held as well as flight training history and experience", says Stein.

Stephen Stein is an Air Safety Investigator.

"The terrain is rocky. We have to take helicopters into the valley and then hike down to access the site", says Stein.

The helicopter is operated by Papillon out of Boulder City.

Billed as the world's largest aerial sightseeing company.

Tourist reaction only two days later is mixed, but mostly hesitant.

"Probably not, no matter how much people say they're safe,” said one tourist from California about whether she’d fly. Another responded, "One tragedy is not as bad as how many cars we have from drunk drivers around here." Yet another said, "After hearing that I don't think I want to do that anymore."

While it's much too soon to know why the chopper crashed, Attorney Mike Slack says the Airbus Model has had problems in the past.

"This is the most recent in a series of crashes involving Airbus helicopters where there is a survivable crash and passengers were burned or killed as a result of post-impact fire", says Slack.

It's not the first time a Papillon helicopter has gone down in the Grand Canyon. In 2001, six people were killed in a fiery crash near Meadview, Arizona.

Slack says since 2014, three more Papillon Airbus choppers have crashed in other states.

"People ask me all the time about tour helicopters. And I say friends don't let friends fly tour helicopters", says Slack.

But News 3's Aviation Expert Reed Yadon, who has piloted the same aircraft, says the helicopter itself is reputable. In fact, several local tour companies fly the same helicopter to and from the Grand Canyon almost daily.

"I've flown the EC 130 and Like it a great deal. It has a very good payload in it, and the aircraft has a very good record," said Yadon.

Still, industry insiders say with more than 600 thousand visitors flown to the Grand Canyon every year, helicopter travel is safe.

But Slack believes it's consumer beware.

"The equipment is heavily utilized. They start tour days early. They end them late. As long as there is sunshine they're flying", says Slack.

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