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Police Officer Killed After Patrol Helicopter Crashes Into the California Surf

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A police helicopter crash Saturday night in Southern California claimed the life of one officer and injured another.

Huntington Beach Police Chief Eric Parra said the helicopter “crashed for reasons that we’re not certain of,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Huntington Beach Police Officer Nicholas Vella, 44, was killed in the crash, police said. The other officer, whose name was not made public, was released from a hospital Sunday morning.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Major Accident Reconstruction Team will investigate as well, said Jennifer Carey, the department’s public information officer, according to the Times.

“We look at not only what happened but we try to figure out why it happened,” NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said, according to the newspaper. “By figuring out why it happened, you can maybe prevent future accidents.”

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Police have not said which officer was piloting the chopper.

Parra called Vella, a 14-year veteran of the department, “an officer that was truly dedicated to the job and was doing what he loved doing,” according to the Times.

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He leaves behind a wife and daughter, a police Twitter post stated.

The Times cited a witness it did not name as saying the helicopter appeared to be out of control shortly before it hit the water about 10 to 20 feet from the shoreline.

Joseph Thore, who was nearby having a barbecue, witnessed the crash, according to KTLA-TV.

“You could tell that it was in trouble and it looked like it was losing control, looked like it was spiraling a bit,” he said.

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“All of a sudden, I hear something sputtering really close, and it didn’t sound like a normal helicopter,” KABC-TV quoted one woman as saying.

“Somehow, he managed to get it into the bay to save everybody’s life. If he had landed on a house, there would be a lot of casualties. I feel very fortunate,” the witness said.

“We have a lot of helicopters flying around, but this had a higher pitch to it,” another witness said according to KABC. “It didn’t sound right. I looked outside and saw it going in circles.”

Parra said the chopper was responding to a “disturbance fight call” from Newport Beach at about 6:30 p.m., according to the Times.

“This is truly a really heartbreaking time for all of us here in Huntington Beach,” said Mayor Barbara Delgleize said, according to the newspaper. “Our community values our police department, and the loss of an officer hits us all really hard.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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