Huntington Beach

Video Shows Witnesses Rushing to Help Huntington Beach Officers After Helicopter Crash

"We saw it kind of spiraling, people started screaming," said one witness to the crash.

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New video shows witnesses desperately trying to help two officers who were inside a police helicopter when it crashed Saturday night in shallow water off Newport Beach.

The crash killed one Huntington Beach officer and left another injured. In video of the crash aftermath, witnesses who responded to the scene can be heard trying to gather equipment in an urgent rescue effort.

"Does anyone have goggles?! Goggles, mask, they’ve got it," one witness behind the camera can be heard saying. "Someone’s got it. Stay back. Stay back."

Witnesses in the Newport Beach Harbor saw the aftermath of a Huntington Beach Police helicopter crashing into the water. Video provided by Justin Martin.

The video shows others jumping from boats into the water, then working to wrap rope around the helicopter and pull it to shore, as sirens blare and lights flash nonstop in the background.

Other witnesses described what they saw in the shallow waters between Balboa and Lido Islands.

"I saw the helicopter flying around just circling around the harbor here, and then it just started losing control and went into a tail spin," said witness Jason Taylor.

"Right about that time is when we saw it kind of spiraling, people started screaming," said Marilyn Sato.

An off-duty Newport Beach lifeguard was the first on the scene, and he pulled one of the pilots to safety.

Residents in that area of Newport Beach believe the officers are heroes who steered the helicopter away from boats and houses. Darsha Philips reports for NBC4 on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.

Eventually, both officers were pulled from the helicopter and rushed to hospitals.

No one else was injured, but 44-year-old Officer Nicholas Vella died. Huntington Beach police, and the community, are mourning the 14-year veteran with the department.

According to police, Vella is the second Huntington Beach police officer to die in the line of duty, in the history of the department. The first such death was in 1974.

Vella leaves behind a wife and a teenage daughter.

Residents of Lido Island say the police officer pilots are heroes, and they believe the officers steered the helicopter away from homes and boats.

The big question, as the investigation continues, is what caused the crash.

The helicopter, a McDonnell Douglas 500N according to the Federal Aviation Administration, was removed from the water on Sunday afternoon.

The National Transportation Safety Board, and the Orange County Sheriff's Department, were both present while it was being removed, using specialized equipment to get a better look at the wreckage as part of their lengthy and ongoing investigation.

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