Orange County

One Officer Dead, One Released from Hospital After Huntington Beach Police Helicopter Crashes in Water

A 44-year-old Huntington Beach officer was killed when a police helicopter crashed in shallow water off Newport Beach.

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The Huntington Beach police officer hospitalized after a police helicopter crash in Newport Beach has been released, according to the Huntington Beach Police Department, after the incident left that officer in critical condition and another officer dead Saturday afternoon

The two officers were responding to a disturbance fight call in Newport Beach when it crashed into shallow water, Huntington Beach police chief Eric Parra said in a press conference Saturday.

"The city of Huntington Beach, the residents of Huntington Beach, the Huntington Beach Police Department and the law enforcement community have lost an officer that was truly dedicated to his job," Parra said. "This is a tragedy that we are investigating."

The officer who died was identified as 44-year-old Nicholas Vella, a 14-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Vella is the second officer to die in the line of duty in the history of the police department, according to the city's Public Information Officer. The last time an officer in the Huntington Beach Police Department died in the line of duty was back in 1974.

The crash appeared to have happened not far from the shore off the Balboa Peninsula. Many people witnessed the crash, including people at nearby restaurants in the seaside community.

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"We were waiting for a table at the Crab Cooker," said witness Larry Sato. "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."

Both occupants were transported to hospitals, authorities said. One person was transported to the UCI Medical Center and the second person who was trapped was transported to OC Global Medical Center.

The initial call of the incident came in at approximately 6:34 p.m. near 42 Balboa Blvd. in Newport Beach.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Orange County Sheriff's Major Accident Investigation Team are investigating the incident, Parra said.

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