Update: Police chopper hit pole in crash; 2 killed

An Atlanta Police Department helicopter crash killed two officers aboard the aircraft when it crashed near a shopping center late Saturday.


ATLANTA — Federal investigators say an Atlanta police helicopter hit the top of power line pole and its support cables before it crashed on a busy city street, killing two officers on board.

No one on the ground was injured. The officers were searching for a 9-year-old boy who had run away from home. He was later found unharmed.

NTSB investigator Ralph Hicks said Sunday witnesses heard the helicopter and saw a flash of light when it hit the pole. He says part of the chopper's landing gear was caught in the support cables and the power company had to help authorities get it down.

Hicks says investigators are trying to figure out why the helicopter crashed. He says they hope to have a preliminary report later this week.

The wreckage of the OH-6A had already been moved as investigators piece together what happened, said Eric M. Weiss, a spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Records with the Federal Aviation Administration showed the helicopter was a Hughes OH-6A manufactured in 1967. The Hughes has historically been a military workhorse.

Atlanta police referred questions about what caused the crash to federal investigators.

Bystander Darryl James, 42, told the AP that he had gone with a companion to a check-cashing store Saturday night when he heard the helicopter flying overhead and thought it was rather low.

"The tail end went down and then there was an explosion," James said. He said he tried to get close to the wreckage. "As soon as I got close enough to it, poom! It exploded." He added of the helicopter's occupants: "They could not survive it."

James said people are often waiting at a normally busy bus stop near the crash site, adding, "Thank God nobody was out there."

After the crash, fire trucks and police cars with lights flashing converged on the area, blocking surrounding roads. Police put up yellow crime scene tape and kept bystanders so far back they were unable to see the crash site behind a small rise.

"Losing an officer is the most difficult thing a police chief can face," Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said in a news release. "Losing two is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of these officers and our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also said early Sunday that he was saddened by what he called a "terrible accident."

"We mourn these two brave men and offer our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones," Reed said in a statement.