A Houston police officer was killed following a helicopter crash early Saturday, and another officer was critically injured, the city police chief said.
The pilot and tactical flight officer aboard a police helicopter were critically injured when the aircraft crashed at an apartment complex around 2 a.m., the department initially said. They were flown to a hospital where the tactical flight officer died, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said after 6 a.m., in his second press conference of the day.
The pilot was still in surgery, Acevedo said, and was “very banged up” but police were hopeful he would survive.
“We don’t have any idea why it went down at this time,” Acevedo said at the first press conference, near the north Houston crash scene, and reiterated that later in the morning.
There were no injuries to anyone on the ground at the apartment complex, a masked Acevedo told reporters.
The helicopter was supposed to assist with a search for bodies in a nearby bayou, which was prompted by a tip that the police chief characterized as “probably a bogus call — we don’t know."
The officers were trapped in the wreckage “for an extended period of time” before being cut out by city firefighters.
Acevedo identified two silver linings at the first press conference: While the wreckage was “pretty significant,” it didn’t catch fire, and the helicopter avoided striking occupied apartment buildings. It did clip the complex’s clubhouse, he said. Residents of the Biscayne at Cityview complex weren’t evacuated.
The police department is shutting down flights until it has a chance to reassess in the coming days, and will be relying on the Texas Department of Public Safety and Harris County Sheriff’s Office for flight support in the interim.
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and will be investigating, Acevedo said, while the police department conducts a parallel investigation.
The department will not release the names of the officers until their extended families are made aware, Acevedo said. He said police had picked up immediate family and taken them to the hospital. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Acevedo at the second press conference.
Acevedo noted that shots rang out across the street from the complex around 3 a.m., while police were investigating the crash. Six people were taken into custody and no injuries were reported, he said, updating the number of people from three. Acevedo stressed that police had no information indicating the helicopter was taken down by hostile action.