Two Atlanta Police Officers killed in helicopter crash - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Two Atlanta Police Officers killed in helicopter crash

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Two Atlanta Police officers were killed Saturday night when their helicopter crashed near MLK and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive. Two Atlanta Police officers were killed Saturday night when their helicopter crashed near MLK and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive.
Two Atlanta Police officers were killed Saturday night when their helicopter crashed near MLK and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive. Two Atlanta Police officers were killed Saturday night when their helicopter crashed near MLK and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive.
ATLANTA -

Two Atlanta police officers died Saturday night when their helicopter crashed as they searched for a missing 9-year-old boy in northwest Atlanta.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been on the scene with investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration since early Sunday morning. Spokesperson Ralph Hicks for the NTSB said during a briefing on Sunday that they will be receiving assistance as early as Monday from aviation industry experts to rule out mechanical problems.

Witnesses told Federal investigators that they saw a flash of light which they believe was the helicopter hitting a power pole and supporting cables. A landing skid for the 1967 Hughes OH-6A was found in those power lines. Witness said a second flash of light was seen when the plane hit the ground.

Hicks said the cockpit of the helicopter was fully engulfed in flames as a result of the impact. He said the helicopter did not have a flight data recorder, but they are checking with their GSP system which may have recorded data which may help the investigation.

The NTSB said they will not speculate on the exact cause of the accident. They are currently in a fact-finding phase of the investigation focusing on the "man, machine, and moment" of the crash. They believe they may have a preliminary report on the crash by the end of this week or early next week.

They say it could take nine months to know exactly what caused the Atlanta police helicopter to crash.

Atlanta Police Chief George Turner spoke briefly during a press conference around 1:20 a.m. Sunday.   He said the two aviation officers were flying in the area of Hamilton E. Holmes Drive NW and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SW looking for a 9-year-old boy who was reported missing around 9 p.m.  Chief Turner said the helicopter was flying low when it clipped power lines, causing the crash.

Chief Turner said both officers died on impact.  On Sunday, APD released a statement identifying the fallen officers.  They were Officer Richard Halford, 48, of Lithia Springs, and Officer Shawn Smiley, 40, of Lithonia.  Both men were fathers.  Click here to read more about them.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE CRASH SCENE


The missing child was later found safe.  No one on the ground was injured as a result of the accident.

Witnesses told FOX 5 they heard the chopper flying low, and then saw it burst into flames after it hit power lines.  

"It was horrific," said Darryl James, who witnessed the crash.  "It looked like a grenade had gone off or some type of explosion.  It was in the middle of the street, thank God nobody else was traveling."

The NTSB and FAA are currently investigating the deadly accident, with the Atlanta Police Department assisting in a support role.  The NTSB has planned a news conference for 5 p.m. Sunday to provide further details about the investigation.

"Losing an officer is the most difficult thing a police chief can face," said Chief Turner. "Losing two is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of these officers and our thoughts and prayers are with them. This is a difficult day for the APD family and it is a reminder of their bravery and the sacrifices made by our officers every day."

Turner called upon the citizens of Atlanta to pray for the officers, their families, and the department.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also expressed his condolences through the following statement early Sunday morning:

"I am deeply saddened by the terrible accident that claimed the lives of two on-duty Atlanta Police Department officers. We mourn these two brave men and offer our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones. We also pause to extend our sympathy to the men and women of the police department who place their lives in harm's way every day to keep our city safe, and who especially feel the pain of this loss."

Portions of Hamilton E. Holmes Drive NW and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive were closed overnight to allow emergency responders and investigators direct access to the scene.  Investigators cleared the wreckage from those roads overnight, and they have since reopened.

Georgia Power told FOX 5 News that power to about 1,200 customers was interrupted due to the incident. Power has since been restored to those customers.

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