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Report: Pilot fought to save helicopter before deadly crash

Police Helicopter Crash (FILE)
Posted at 11:59 AM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 14:59:26-05

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A preliminary report by federal investigators says the pilot of a Huntington Beach police helicopter desperately tried to keep flying before crashing into the ocean last month, killing another officer.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued the brief report Wednesday but didn't identify a cause for the Feb. 19 crash in Newport Beach.

A funeral service was held for Huntington Beach Officer Nicholas Vella at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Tuesday. The 44-year-old was working as a tactical flight officer on February 19th when his police helicopter crashed into the ocean off Newport Beach.

The report says the pilot was only 500 feet above the ground when the chopper yawed to the right, went into a spinning descent and smashed into the water, shattering the canopy and submerging him.

He escaped and was rescued by onlookers.

The crash killed the other officer, 44-year-old Nicholas Vella, a 14-year veteran.