The pilot of a Columbus, Georgia law enforcement helicopter that crashed into an Alabama lake Friday, Nov. 16 was identified as David Hall, a recently retired Columbus Police Department officer and part-time reserve pilot.
Mr. Hall, 53, and an unidentified passenger, were killed when the Columbus Metro Narcotics Task Force helicopter they were flying in crashed in Lake Mitchell, a section of the Coosa River in Chilton County, Alabama.
Authorities said Mr. Hall and the passenger were on their way to Clanton, Alabama, from Columbus, to swap the Bell OH-58 helicopter for another helicopter that had already undergone routine maintenance when the aircraft went down.
According to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor and Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley issued a joint statement about the helicopter crash saying “we believe it hit a power line that stretched across the Coosa River between Coosa and Chilton counties. The helicopter was in route to Clanton, Ala., for routine maintenance and repair.”
Efforts to recover the bodies were unsuccessful over the weekend due to conditions at the river and other factors, including the injury and hospitalization of a diver involved in the recovery efforts. The bodies were finally recovered on Monday, Nov. 19.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 20, the helicopter remained submerged in about 75 feet of water.
The Ledger-Enquirer reported that Mr. Hall survived an airplane crash Nov. 23, 2016, when the single-engine Piper plane he was piloting lost power after takeoff and plunged into some trees. He and the rookie pilot accompanying him at the time suffered only minor injuries in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the helicopter crash and could issue a preliminary report in the next few days or weeks. Neither agency has indicated what factors may have contributed to the crash.
“While the incident continues to unfold, our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on board the Georgia law enforcement helicopter that crashed near Verbena, Alabama,” said Mike Andrews, a lawyer at Beasley Allen Law Firm who focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation.
“We have been told that the helicopter made contact with some power lines before crashing into Lake Mitchell. To help prevent this from happening, public utilities and other agencies are required to keep accurate maps and pass along updated information to pilots when there are changes. As part of their investigation, federal authorities will examine the extent to which this policy was carried out by the agencies responsible for the power lines in question.”