While Las Vegas has enjoyed steady growth in both visitors and demand in 2011, the recent fatal crash of a helicopter tour near Lake Mead has hurt aerial tour bookings for the holidays.
USA Today reports that Delwin and Tamara Chapman were killed when their helicopter operated by Sundance Helicopters crashed during a tour of the Las Vegas area. The couple from Utica, Kansas, was celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Sundance Helicopters has had at least four accidents in 1994, and could not be reached for comment. Also killed in the accident were Anupama Bhola, 26, and Lovish Bhanot, 28, from New Delhi, India.
According to the FAA: Tour routings are standardized for all the area tour operators... About one minute prior to the accident, the radar indicated the helicopter climbed to 4,100 feet MSL and turned about 90 degrees to the left. The left turn and climb are not part of the normal route. Radar then indicated the helicopter descended to 3,300 feet MSL and tracked a northeasterly course for about 20 seconds, until entering a left turn then a descent. The last radar target received was about 1/8 miles from the accident site.
The aerial tourism industry in Las Vegas relies upon international visitors for most bookings, and the death of travelers from India is likely to cast a pall on an international level. A lawsuit filed by the families of Bhola and Bhanot will likely ensure this ordeal is in the public spotlight for months and years to come.