NEW YORK — Five people who died in a helicopter crash near the Grand Canyon were remembered with sobs, prayers and Yiddish words that described lively, generous young adults who contributed to their closely knit Orthodox Jewish communities in many ways.
Several hundred mourners gathered Monday for the funerals of the friends, killed Friday on a flight from Las Vegas.
"To say 'devastated' is still a mild word," said Rabbi Edgar Gluck, who knows the victims' families. Seven children from 3 months old to 10 years lost one or both parents in the accident, Gluck said.
The five services were held one after the other at the Shomrei Hadas Chapel, in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Family members, rabbis and friends spoke of the deaths, which sent shock waves through several Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn.
Pilot Kevin Innocenti, 27, of Henderson, Nev., also died when the helicopter went down near the canyon's western end, about 60 miles east of Las Vegas.
Officials did not release the names of the passengers who were killed, but Gluck identified them as David Daskal, Shayie Lichtenstein, Avi and Barbara Wajsbaum and Aryeh Zvi Fastag.
The five were part of a group of about 20 friends and relatives on a four-day vacation at the Bellagio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, according to Steven Golomb, one of those on the trip.
National Transportation Safety Board officials said determining the cause of the accident will be difficult because the helicopter had no recording device. NTSB records show the helicopter company has been involved in four crashes during the last three years along the Colorado River, which cuts through the Grand Canyon.
The helicopter company pledged to cooperate. "I would like to assure everyone that all efforts will be exhausted to determine the cause of the accident," said Brenda Halvorson of Papillon Airways Inc.
The sole survivor, Daskal's wife, remained in critical condition, but her condition had improved slightly, said Rick Plummer, a spokesman for University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Chana Daskal, 25, of Brooklyn, suffered burns over 80% of her body.
She is in intensive care and has not spoken since arriving at the hospital, Plummer said. Federal investigators are waiting for her condition to improve to interview her about the crash.
"God kept her alive," Daskal's family said in a statement.
The family expressed gratitude for the support it has received, thanking Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, the local Jewish community, family and friends in New York and the medical staff during a Monday news conference.