The accident took place in the coastal city of Newport Beach, California at about 6:30 p.m. last Saturday evening.
A police helicopter from Huntington Beach, a neighboring city to Newport Beach, suddenly lost control and descended rapidly until it crashed into the shallow water. Two police officers were on board at the time, one of whom was pronounced dead at the scene, while the second officer sustained injuries but has since been released from the hospital.
The deceased was Officer Nicholas Vella, a veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department who had 14 years of service behind him. The Huntington Beach Police Department broke the news via its official Twitter account:
“It is with tremendous sorrow that we announce the passing of Officer Nicholas Vella, a 14-year veteran of HBPD. Officer Vella died this evening after our police helicopter, HB-1, crashed into the waters off Newport while responding to a call for service. Officer Vella leaves behind a wife and daughter. He served the community of Huntington Beach with honor and dignity. Please join us in extending prayers to Officer Vella’s family. We want to thank the community and our law enforcement partners for your support during this difficult time.”
It is with tremendous sorrow that we announce the passing of Officer Nicholas Vella, a 14-year veteran of HBPD. Officer Vella died this evening after our police helicopter, HB-1, crashed into the waters off Newport while responding to a call for service. (1 of 3) pic.twitter.com/mxulAf248Q— Huntington Beach PD (@HBPoliceDept) February 20, 2022
Witnesses in the area recall how they experienced the moments leading up to the disaster:
“We were driving over here and we heard the pitch of the helicopter and it sounded like the helicopter was in distress,” one witness told a CBS Los Angeles reporter. “When we looked at the helicopter it was out of control. It was obvious the helicopter was gonna go down. It did go down, and almost immediately sunk.”
“We were waiting for a table at the Crab Cooker,” another witness said. “We saw the helicopter circle around a couple of times. It kept getting lower, and suddenly we saw the lights just twirling. And, it just went down.”
At about 10 p.m., just 3 hours after the tragic accident, the Huntington Beach Department held a press conference to brief local media on the latest updates on the case.
“This is a difficult time for all of us. I would ask for your prayers and support, as we support our officers’ families as we grieve through this,” said Police Department Chief Eric Parra.
Chief Parra also spoke of having been with Officer Vella’s family after receiving news of what happened: “I’m not going to say they’re doing well, but as well as anybody would do under these tragic circumstances.”
Source: CBS Los Angeles