Retired Little Rock police officer seriously injured in helicopter crash

Little Rock police helicopter accident near a training facility off of Ironton Rd. (Photo courtesy: Little Rock Police Dept.)

A retired Little Rock police officer was seriously injured when a department helicopter crashed during a test procedure Thursday morning.

Police said the the crash happened about 11 a.m. behind the department's training facility off of Ironton Cut Off Road. Police spokesman Lt. Michael Ford said a senior pilot was doing a test run after new equipment was put in the helicopter when a straight-line wind came through and tipped the helicopter off of the staging area where it was sitting.

According to Ford, the propellers then caught the ground and the helicopter began spinning on the ground.

Ford said this is the first time an event involving an LRPD helicopter has occurred.

"This is one of those things that highlights how dangerous this job is," Ford said.

The retired officer was taken to the hospital with a head injury. Though initial reports said there was another officer in the helicopter, police later issued a statement clarifying that there was not a second officer inside the helicopter during the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration will not be on scene to investigate because the helicopter was not airborne.

More details will be released as the investigation continues.

Little Rock police acquired the observation helicopter, a 2001 Bell TH-67, in 2015 through a federal military surplus program. The chopper, also called a Jet Ranger, is one of two flight-ready helicopters used by the department's aviation unit.

Since 2015, police have used the helicopters mostly to keep an eye on the city's largest events, including the Arkansas State Fair, Riverfest and the Little Rock Marathon. Police flew 165.5 hours between 2015 and 2017. They spent 66 of those hours observing special events, according to flight records released to KATV under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Patrols accounted for 55.6 hours.

Five hours were logged as a media or public service operations.

Missing person cases, stolen vehicles and special operations accounted for fewer than two hours each of flight time.

The department listed 3.8 flight hours under maintenance and testing.

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