THE PILOT of a helicopter that crashed in the Grand Canyon killing a group of tourists failed a routine safety check before the flight, an inquest was told.

Brothers Stuart and Jason Hill, from Worthing, died along with Stuart’s girlfriend Becky Dobson.

Their friends, honeymooning newlyweds Ellie Udall, from Worthing, and Jonathan Udall, originally from Brighton, were also killed.

The group were on holiday in the US in February 2018 when they booked the 30-minute helicopter ride.

It went without incident until the pilot came down to land over the west rim of the canyon, where he lost control in windy, turbulent conditions.

All five passengers survived the crash but died when the helicopter became a fireball after the fuel tank was punctured.

The Argus: Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother Jason, 32 Stuart Hill, 30, and his brother Jason, 32

At the inquest in Horsham on Wednesday, coroner Penelope Schofield concluded all five died as a result of a tragic accident.

Coroner Schofield said the pilot lost control in a violent gust of wind.

The court heard Scott Booth failed his annual pilot check shortly before the crash. He was allowed to retake days later and passed.

The test revealed he struggled to deal with bad weather.

The Argus: Ellie Milward and with her husband Jonathan Udall Ellie Milward and with her husband Jonathan Udall

Mark Jarvis, from the Air Accident Investigation Brach, said the annual check was to test if Mr Booth could land a helicopter with no engine power.

“The test is effectively a glide approach for helicopters," Mr Jarvis said. "He had trouble controlling the helicopter in gusty conditions.

"He failed to achieve satisfactory score.”

Mr Schofield told American crash investigators: “It just took the aircraft from me. It just spun it, and I couldn’t fly it.”

The coroner instructed the Civil Aviation Authority to consider making crash-resistant fuel safety systems mandatory on all helicopters in UK airspace.

The tourists had boarded the helicopter earlier in the day at Boulder City near Las Vegas.

The Argus: Becky Dobson (left), Stuart Hill and his brother Jason Hill Becky Dobson (left), Stuart Hill and his brother Jason Hill

The rotor blades clipped the wall of the canyon and the tail section broke away from the fuselage before impact, the inquest heard.

Witnesses took 45 minutes to reach the crash site.

The inquest also heard that batteries in the tour operator’s phones were flat and their staff did not know how to use them.

Those inside the helicopter could not be moved for more than six hours as emergency services struggled to reach them.

The inquest heard Mr Booth was piloting his third flight of the day and there were no mechanical issues with the helicopter.

Asked by the coroner if the crash could have been caused by pilot error, Mr Jarvis said: "I can't make a decision either way.”

The Argus: Scene of helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon Scene of helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon

Other pilots who landed earlier in the day warned of unpredictable tail winds.

Witnesses reported seeing the chopper twice turning 360 degrees before plunging to the ground.

Mr Booth, who lost both legs in the crash, was not represented at the inquest.