911 Calls Offer Glimpse into APD Helicopter Crash

Nov 15, 2012

A preliminary NTSB report said an Atlanta police helicopter made no distress call before hitting power lines and crashing onto a northwest Atlanta street.  

All main rotor blades were accounted for within the area of the main  wreckage.  The  tail boom of the helicopter was separated from the fuselage was found adjacent to  the main wreckage. The tail rotor blades remained attached to the tail rotor gearbox. Signatures consistent with wire contact were found on the tail boom and on one main rotor blade.  --NTSB preliminary report. 

People drop balloons and teddy bears at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Hamilton E. Holmes. APD's helicopter went down at this intersection on Nov. 3rd.
Credit Charles Edwards / WABE News

A full report could take a year.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Police Department has released dispatch and 911 calls that offer a timeline and a glimpse into what happened the night of Nov. 3rd.

At 9:04, a mother called Atlanta 911 to report missing her 9-year-old son.

“My little boy was over for a visit, and he ran away,” she said. 

Shortly thereafter, dispatchers asked if APD’s air unit can assist. 

Atlanta Police Dept. pilot Richard Halford and Officer Shawn Smiley took off from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 10:24.

There was no indication of trouble prior to 10:44, when pilot Richard Halford gave a final inaudible transmission. 

Within one minute of that call, a ground officer reported the crash.

Credit Atlanta Police Dept.

“It looks like we’re going to have an airplane crash, MLK at Payton.  It’s got a large fire, power’s out," he said.  Less than a minute later, he reported the aircraft had exploded. 

By 10:53, emergency crews blanketed the scene. With both concern and disbelief in his voice, an officer on radio asked if anyone had heard from the pilots.

The Hughes OH-6A helicopter, seen here, was 45-years old. It originally say military service before being given to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games.
Credit Courtesy: JetLiners.com

“Can anybody advise if they’re talking to Phoenix right now?” he asked.  Phoenix is what APD called the helicopter.  

No one was, confirmed another officer. 

By this time, 911 calls were rolling in.  Some thought it was an airplane down.  Others were concerned about their power being out. 

An employee of a nearby Family Dollar gave what’s perhaps the only 911 account of what the chopper looked like on its way down.

“It was like going crazy like it was trying to catch its balance, and I saw it just went face-down into a CVS,” she told dispatchers. 

The woman later broke into hysterical prayers, begging Jesus that no one was hurt.

Both officers aboard died in the crash.