Huntington Beach

Procession Honors Huntington Beach Officer Killed in Helicopter Crash

Officer Nicholas Vella, 44, died Saturday when a Huntington Beach police helicopter crashed in shallow water off Newport Beach.

Huntington Beach Police Department

Law enforcement colleagues were part of a procession Tuesday to honor a 44-year-old Huntington Beach officer killed in a police helicopter crash.

The remains of Officer Nicholas Vella, who died in Saturday night's helicopter crash in Newport Beach, were transported from the coroner's office to Community Funeral Service in La Habra.

The procession was led by a team of motor officers from the Huntington Beach Police Department. It included police and fire department vehicles from several agencies. Firefighters standing on top of fire engines saluted from freeway overpasses.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash along the Southern California coast that killed Vella and sent another to the hospital with critical injuries. That officer has since been released.

The Huntington Beach officers were responding to a disturbance in the neighboring city of Newport Beach around 6:30 p.m. Saturday when the helicopter hit a narrow strip of water between Lido Isle and the Balboa Peninsula. Witnesses said boaters rushed to pull the officers out of the helicopter, which landed upside down in shallow water.

An off-duty lifeguard also was part of the desperate rescue effort.

Vella, a 14-year veteran with the police department, died in the crash. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

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.

Word of his death drew dozens of officers and first responders, who formed a line outside the hospital to salute his casket as it was escorted by squad cars to the Orange County coroner's office.

The second officer, who is a 16-year veteran with the department, was released from the hospital Sunday “but there's still a lot of recovery ahead,” police spokeswoman Jennifer Carey told the Orange County Register.

It wasn’t immediately clear who was the pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Orange County Sheriff's Department are investigating the crash.

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.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us