Police identify crew in emergency helicopter landing at Columbia high school

A mechanical problem forced a police helicopter pilot to make an emergency landing on the football field of a local high school in Columbia on Thursday night, a maneuver that caused "significant damage" to the aircraft but injured no one, according to Howard County Police.

About 11:07 p.m., the pilot and three flight officers were responding to a police call when the undetermined problem occurred, police said.

The pilot, a tenured officer and certified flight instructor, "spotted Wilde Lake High School nearby" using night-vision goggles and performed the emergency landing in the field, which sustained minimal damage.

Damage estimates for the helicopter, which was removed Friday evening, have not been determined.

The pilot was joined on board the aircraft by a tactical flight officer and a flight officer in training from Howard County and a tactical flight officer from Anne Arundel County Police. The two counties share flight personnel and equipment, police said.

The flight personnel were identified Friday afternoon as: Cpl. Perry Thorsvik, the pilot, who has been with the Howard County Police Department since 2003; Cpl. Robert Townsend, a tactical flight officer and member of Anne Arundel Police Department since 1997; Police Officer First Class Jacob Bell, the second tactical flight officer who has served on the Howard County Police force since 1993; and Police Officer Craig Hoover, the flight observer, who joined Howard County police in 2011.

Howard County police said the helicopter's flight maintenance records were current and there was no record of mechanical problems with the aircraft.

According to Howard County Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn, the primary cause of the mechanical failure won't be known until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation.

"The helicopter will be moved to a secure hangar where the NTSB will examine it starting next week," Llewellyn said.

Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were at the scene Friday conducting a preliminary investigation, Llewellyn said.

Baltimore Sun Media Group Reporter Luke Lavoie contributed to this article.



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