By Carol Robinson Alabama Media Group
CHILTON COUNTY, Ga. — Authorities are on the scene of a helicopter crash in Chilton County.
The sheriff’s office said the crash happened in the area of Cargile Creek on Lake Mitchell. The initial investigation indicates the police chopper hit a power line and then crashed into the river.
The helicopter was from the Columbus area and assigned to a multi-agency drug task force – the Metro Narcotics Task Force. The narcotics task force includes Columbus and Phenix City police, and Russell County and Muscogee County sheriff’s investigators.
Repeated efforts to reach Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren, who oversees the task force, were unsuccessful. Authorities said the pilot was Columbus officer who retired but still worked part-time for the department.
There are no signs of survivors. Recovery efforts are underway. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to these departments,” said Trae Caton, a Chilton County sheriff’s office spokesman.
“We have multiple agencies on scene,” he said. “A massive team effort is taking place to ensure this incident is handled properly.”
The site is near County Road 553 in Verbena. Boaters are asked to avoid that area of the river. Motorists are asked to avoid County Rd 542 and 553 to allow recovery efforts to continue without delay.
The FAA said the Bell OH-58 helicopter crashed 1:15 p.m. near Clanton. The number of people on board is unknown at this time.
About 6 p.m., Caton said divers had located the fuselage of the helicopter and were only able to search briefly due to visibility and depth of the lake. The dives have been suspended until safe light. The crash is located about approximately 70 feet below water.
“Additional units are responding with sonar systems that will hopefully be successful in mapping the debris field and allow divers to focus on those areas,” he said.
The FAA will investigate and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will determine the probable cause of the accident.