A California police officer has died and another seriously was injured after the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Orange County.
The Huntington Beach Police Department confirmed that Officer Nicholas Vella, a 14-year veteran at the force, was killed after the police helicopter HB-1 crashed into water just off Newport Beach at around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 19.
Another officer who was in the helicopter, a 16-year veteran, was also taken to hospital in a critical condition following the crash.
It is unclear which of the two officers was piloting the helicopter at the time of the crash.
Speaking at a press conference Saturday night, Huntington Beach Police Chief Eric Parra said the helicopter crashed for “reasons that we’re not certain of.”
Parra described Vella, 44, as an officer who was “truly dedicated to his job that was doing what he loved doing.”
“This is a tragedy that we are investigating,” Parra said. “This is a difficult night for all of us. And I would ask for your prayers and your support as we support our officer’s family and as we continue to grieve through this.”
Mayor Barbara Delgleize added at the press conference that this was “a heartbreaking time for all” in Huntington Beach.
“This tragic accident serves as a reminder of the danger and the risks that our police officers put themselves in on a daily basis to protect our community,” Delgleize said.
The Huntington Beach Police Department confirmed that 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,” the department wrote on social media.
“We want to thank the community and our law enforcement partners for your support during this difficult time.”
A procession was also held by local emergency services in Huntington Beach to pay respect for Officer Vella.
The incident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department major accident reconstruction team. Both departments have been contacted for comment.
Also on Saturday, another helicopter crashed into the ocean just off the Miami Beach coast in Florida.
Video from the scene shows the helicopter plummeting into the ocean near 10 Street at around 1:10 p.m. in front of a beach full of onlookers.
The Miami Beach Police Department confirmed that two people who were traveling in the helicopter were taken to a local hospital after the crash in a stable condition.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson told Newsweek that the Robinson R44 helicopter crashed “under unknown circumstances.”