Georgia Narcotics Task Force Helicopter Crashes Killing Everybody On Board
Clanton, AL – A helicopter belonging to a two-state narcotics task force crashed after it hit a power line on Nov. 16.
A retired police officer, David Hall of the Columbus Police Department in Georgia, was piloting the helicopter to Clanton for maintenance when it crashed in Lake Mitchell in Chilton County, the Associated Press reported.
Former Officer Hall, a 28-year veteran of the police force, retired earlier this year, but continued to fly the helicopter for his police department.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials said the Bell OH-58 helicopter went down around 1:15 pm about 50 miles north of Montgomery and 50 miles south of Birmingham, WXIA reported.
After the wreck, the Chilton County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that witnesses did not see anyone come out of the helicopter once it hit the water, WSFA reported.
The sheriff’s department sent dive teams into the Coosa River but said it was a recovery mission at that point, according the WXIA.
The dive teams searched the river throughout the weekend, stopping on Saturday afternoon due to strong currents and resuming on Sunday morning, WSFA reported.
Alabama Power was able to slow down two nearby dams on Sunday, making it easier for the divers to search.
Chilton County Sheriff John Sheardon said both bodies were recovered on Nov. 18, still strapped into their seats in the helicopter, according to WSFA.
The second body found belonged to a 22-year-old man who was a passenger in the helicopter. His family has asked that his name be withheld.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the community was mourning the recently-retired officer.
“He was beloved and respected by his fellow officers and by all who knew him,” Tomlinson posted on Twitter, the Birmingham News reported. “Our hearts go out to those who are suffering with this loss. The Lord heals the brokenhearted.”
Officials said there was nothing unusual about the helicopter’s flight or route.
“Every so many hours you have to have maintenance done on an aircraft, and this was just the routine maintenance it has to have on it,” Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported that Hall had been involved in small plane crash on Nov. 23, 2016.
On that occasion, the single-engine Piper airplane Officer Hall was piloting lost power after taking off from the airport, and plunged into trees off a street.
Neither Officer Hall nor his co-pilot were seriously injured in that crash, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA were investigating the helicopter crash.