Survivor of 1994 APD helicopter crash talks about ordeal - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Survivor of 1994 APD helicopter crash talks about ordeal

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Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson, who was once an Atlanta officer, was in a helicopter accident back in 1994. Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson, who was once an Atlanta officer, was in a helicopter accident back in 1994.
RIVERDALE, Ga. -

For one local police chief, the weekend's deadly police helicopter crash is bringing back bad memories.

Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson, who was once an Atlanta officer, was in a helicopter accident back in 1994.

"I was in the helicopter by myself back in January of 1994 and the aircraft lost power, the engine quit and  I had to auto-rotate to the ground at Westview Cemetery and was able to almost walk away," Patterson said.

Patterson said that the accident left him with some physical injuries and a respect for the machine he once piloted.
 
"I broke the L4 vertebra in my back and was able to crawl away from the helicopter and fortunately it didn't catch on fire," said Patterson.
 
As grateful as Patterson is that he survived his crash nearly 20 years ago, his heart was heavy with the news that his former colleague, Officer Richard Halford, died in the weekend tragedy along with Officer Shawn Smiley. Patterson said that he helped train Halford.
 
"That was very difficult for me to accept knowing the fact that Richard was a dedicated pilot, a dedicated police officer and a true asset to the Atlanta Police Department," said Patterson.
 
The mission the officers were on -- looking for a missing child - is typical of what Patterson says the chopper is often used for. He said the helicopter is usually at least 500 feet from the ground, but said that they will go lower depending on the task.
 
"There were lots of opportunities where we had to fly that helicopter in lower altitude than we would normally fly it at because we were looking for a small child and that may have contributed to the accident that Officer Halford and Officer Smiley were involved in," said Patterson. "It will probably be one of those unfortunate accidents, a risk that we take when we fly that helicopter."

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