By City News Service Newport Beach

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (CNS) — A Huntington Beach police officer who was wounded in a helicopter crash that killed a fellow officer has been released from an area hospital, while the investigation continues to determine what caused the aircraft to go down in the waters near Newport Beach while responding to an emergency call.

That second officer, who has not been identified, is 50 years old and a 16-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department. He was released Sunday. Nicholas Vella, 44, a 14-year veteran of the department, died from injuries sustained in the Saturday crash.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies and public officials throughout Southern California were sending their condolences to the Huntington Beach Police Department following the crash, which occurred at 6:34 p.m. Saturday as Helicopter HB-1 was responding to a call for assistance from the Newport Beach Police Department involving a fight near 18th Street and Balboa Boulevard.

Vella was “truly dedicated to his job (and) loved what he was doing,” an emotional Huntington Beach Police Chief Eric Parra said Saturday during a 10 p.m. news conference.

The fallen officer was honored Sunday with a midnight procession of law enforcement officers escorting his body to the Orange County coroner’s office. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.

“This is a difficult night for all of us,” Parra said, “and I would ask for your prayers and your support as we support our officer’s family and as we continue to grieve through this.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize called the crash “heartbreaking” for the entire city.

“Our community values our police department and the loss of an officer hits us all really hard,” Delgleize said at the news conference. “This tragic accident serves as a reminder of the danger and the risk that our police officers put themselves in on a daily basis to protect our community.”

It was unclear who was piloting the helicopter or what caused it to crash.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the following statement Sunday: “Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Officer Vella. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and the entire Huntington Beach Police Department. Officer Vella’s bravery and commitment to protecting his community will not be forgotten.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore tweeted: “We mourn the loss of Huntington Beach Police Officer Nicholas Vella. Our thoughts are with his department and Officer Vella’s family, friends and colleagues. Blessed are the Peacemakers. May he rest in eternal peace while our profession holds the watch.”

Other law enforcement agencies also responded in kind.

“We send our deepest condolences to the @HBPoliceDept as they mourn the loss of Officer Vella. Please keep his family, friends and brothers and sisters of the Huntington Beach Police Department in your thoughts and prayers,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department tweeted.

“Our hearts are with @HBPoliceDept who lost one of their officers last night in a tragic helicopter accident while responding to a call for service. We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Officer Vella and to the entire HBPD community,” the Long Beach Police Department tweeted.

“Our most sincere thoughts and prayers are with the Vella family, and our public safety brothers and sisters at @HBPoliceDept during this very difficult time,” the Riverside County Fire Department wrote.

“We mourn with you @HBPoliceDept and are so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with your second officer as the officer recovers from injuries,” the Palm Springs Police Department wrote.

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Officer Vella. Our thoughts are with @HBPoliceDept during this difficult time. We pray that the second officer recovers from their injuries,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit tweeted.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department sent a similar message.

The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Major Accident Reconstruction Team.

Parra said the department’s remaining aircraft will not fly again until they are inspected to determine whether mechanical issues were a factor.

“We need to have the current aircraft inspected to make sure there’s nothing wrong,” Parra said. “We’re going to pull those in — they won’t fly until we do the inspection.”

The Huntington Beach Police Department Air Support Unit serves that city along with Newport Beach and Costa Mesa under contracts with those two cities.

https://spectrumnews1.com/ca/san-fernando-valley-ventura/public-safety/2022/02/20/huntington-beach-police-helicopter-crashes-into-newport-beach-harbor