A horrific scene unfolded early Saturday when a Houston Police Department helicopter spun out of control and crashed near some apartment buildings, local ABC affiliate KTRK reported.
Sadly, the tactical flight officer on board the rotary craft, identified as Officer Jason Knox, perished in the terrible accident.
The pilot of the helicopter was discovered seriously injured in the wreckage and transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition later on Saturday.
Crash horrifies onlookers
According to Houston Police Chief Art Acevado, the helicopter had been flying over a bayou while assisting in a search for bodies that had been reportedly spotted in the area. Unfortunately, something went wrong with the aircraft, and it lost control.
Witnesses on the ground could only look on with distress as the aircraft began to spin wildly and lose altitude before finally crashing down to the ground just a few dozen feet away from an apartment complex.
“It was hovering over the apartment when we started recording,” a witness told KTRK. “Then it went in front of the apartment in our view, it started spinning and took a nosedive.”
“Whoever was flying the helicopter did a pretty good job of avoiding killing anybody,” Steve Moore, owner of the apartment complex, said to the media outlet.
He went on: “The helicopter actually hit the office and ended up partly in the pool.”
Fleet grounded pending investigation
Local NBC affiliate KPRC reported that the injured pilot, identified as Officer Chase Cormier, underwent emergency surgery at the hospital for a broken back and other serious injuries.
The helicopter itself, which went by the callsign “Fox 75,” was identified by Federal Aviation Administration records as an MD 396E model that was built in 2008, was registered to the city of Houston, and was certified in 2009. That certification was set to expire in 2022.
It remains unclear at this point what, exactly, went wrong with the aircraft, but federal investigators have been called in to determine what happened, KTRK noted.
In the meantime, the HPD has indefinitely grounded its entire fleet of helicopters, and both the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and Texas Department of Public Safety will take over all air operations in the Houston area for the time being.