Riverdale Police Chief Sam Patterson remembered the helicopter crash he was involved in when he heard about the helicopter accident that killed two Atlanta police officers.
"I'm just terribly empathetic to the families of the officers, their loved ones, their children," said Patterson.
Patterson is a Vietnam vet who flew combat helicopters for the Army. He joined the Atlanta police department in 1987 to fly.
Patterson's accident happened on Jan. 15, 1994. Patterson said he was in a test flight above the Westview Cemetery when his engine died and his helicopter dropped inside the cemetery. Westview is located about a mile from where Saturday's fatal crash.
"I was about 500 feet above the ground, it was very dark. I knew I was over the cemetery," said Patterson. "In a helicopter when you are flying alone you hear the sounds of the helicopter. You kind of hear them but you don't hear them. When the sounds of the engine go away, when the engine failed and that sound of the engine was no longer there it was a very eerie feeling."
Patterson broke his back but he survived. Former APD Chief Beverly Harvard honored him with the Blue Star Award for surviving the crash.
"I did fracture my l4 vertebra in my back, which kept me from being able to walk away from the crash, but I did survive it and I fell very blessed to have survived it," said Patterson.
Officers Richard Halford and Shawn Smiley died in the crash on Saturday. Patterson said Halford replaced him when he left APD. They were friends for 25 years. Patterson said Halford was a good pilot.
"I'm sure whatever he was doing, he was doing in the interest of trying to find that missing child. Unfortunately, it may have cost him his life," said Patterson.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Two officers were killed when their police helicopter crashed late Saturday night in southwest Atlanta. Read story Atlanta police are mourning the loss of two officers killed in a tragic helicopter crash.More>>
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
31 people are in trouble with the law after a three day prostitution sting in Richmond. Police told NBC12 they targeted specific areas where residents and business owners complained about the illegal activity.More >
Thursday, August 21 2014 6:51 AM EDT2014-08-21 10:51:52 GMT
One year ago, Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at McNair Discovery Learning Academy, did not think she had much for which to live. Her marriage was ending in divorce. Her self-esteem was at its lowest.More >
DeKalb schools hail the hero who saved students' lives while talking a gunman into surrendering.More >