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>>
Friday, May 17 2013 7:16 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:16:53 GMT
One person has died in a crash near Harrisonville, MO, Thursday evening. The crash happened on Missouri Highway 7 and Walker Road. It involved a car and a tractor-trailer. Harrisonville is in Cass County.More >
Savannah Nash celebrated her 16th birthday last week. She died Thursday when her car slammed into a semi while she was texting during her first time driving by herself.More >
Monday, May 20 2013 5:16 PM EDT2013-05-20 21:16:44 GMT
DeKalb County Police confirm that a former NFL player David McMillan III was shot and killed in Decatur on Saturday. McMillan played for the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to 2007. Based on witness statementsMore >
DeKalb County Police confirm that a former NFL player David McMillan III was shot and killed in Decatur on Saturday.More >
Monday, May 20 2013 10:53 AM EDT2013-05-20 14:53:00 GMT
Georgia Lottery players statewide won big from Saturday's historic $591 million Powerball drawing. Winning tickets worth $1 million were sold at RaceTrac on Riverstone Parkway in Canton and Corner CupboardMore >
Georgia Lottery players statewide won big from Saturday's historic $591 million Powerball drawing.More >
Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:04 AM EDT2013-05-21 04:04:07 GMT
The trailer was purchased by the Boy Scouts with hard work from fundraiser's, and donations from charitable contributions. Now, it is in the hands of a criminal. It was stolen sometime last week, butMore >
The trailer was purchased by the Boy Scouts with hard work from fundraisers, and donations from charitable contributions.More >