Law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California were sending their condolences to the Huntington Beach Police Department Sunday after an HBPD officer was killed in a helicopter crash.

Investigators were trying to determine what led to the crash, which occurred at 6:34 p.m. Saturday as Helicopter HB-1 was responding to a call for assistance from the Newport Beach Police Department involving a fight near 18th Street and Balboa Boulevard.

Nicholas Vella, 44, died from injuries sustained in the crash, an emotional Huntington Beach Police Chief Eric Parra announced Saturday during a 10 p.m. news conference. Vella was a 14-year veteran of the department and was “truly dedicated to his job (and) loved what he was doing,” the chief said.

A second officer aboard the helicopter, who is 50 and a 16-year veteran of the department, was hospitalized but later released, the department tweeted Sunday.

“This is a difficult night for all of us,” Parra said, “and I would ask for your prayers and your support as we support our officer’s family and as we continue to grieve through this.”

Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize called the crash “heartbreaking” for the entire city.

“Our community values our police department and the loss of an officer hits us all really hard,” Delgleize said at the news conference. “This tragic accident serves as a reminder of the danger and the risk that our police officers put themselves in on a daily basis to protect our community.”

It was unclear who was piloting the helicopter or what caused it to crash.

The accident was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Major Accident Reconstruction Team.

Parra said the department’s remaining aircraft will not fly again until they are inspected to determine whether mechanical issues were a factor.

“We need to have the current aircraft inspected to make sure there’s nothing wrong,” Parra said. “We’re going to pull those in — they won’t fly until we do the inspection.”

The Huntington Beach Police Department Air Support Unit serves that city along with Newport Beach and Costa Mesa under contracts with those two cities.

The helicopter crash-landed in the waters between Balboa Island and Lido Isle. Video from the scene showed the wreckage in water at the shoreline. CBS2/KCAL9 showed video of lifeguards and police officers pulling two people from the wreckage.

Several bystanders also jumped into the water to help.

Vella was honored with a midnight procession of law enforcement officers escorting his body to the Orange County coroner’s office. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the following statement Sunday: “Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Officer Vella. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and the entire Huntington Beach Police Department. Officer Vella’s bravery and commitment to protecting his community will not be forgotten.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore tweeted: “We mourn the loss of Huntington Beach Police Officer Nicholas Vella. Our thoughts are with his department and Officer Vella’s family, friends and colleagues. Blessed are the Peacemakers. May he rest in eternal peace while our profession holds the watch.”

Other law enforcement agencies also responded in kind.

“We send our deepest condolences to the @HBPoliceDept as they mourn the loss of Officer Vella. Please keep his family, friends and brothers and sisters of the Huntington Beach Police Department in your thoughts and prayers,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department tweeted.

“Our hearts are with @HBPoliceDept who lost one of their officers last night in a tragic helicopter accident while responding to a call for service. We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Officer Vella and to the entire HBPD community,” the Long Beach Police Department tweeted.

“Our most sincere thoughts and prayers are with the Vella family, and our public safety brothers and sisters at @HBPoliceDept during this very difficult time,” the Riverside County Fire Department wrote.

“We mourn with you @HBPoliceDept and are so sorry for your loss. Our thoughts are with your second officer as the officer recovers from injuries,” the Palm Springs Police Department wrote.

“We are saddened to hear about the passing of Officer Vella. Our thoughts are with @HBPoliceDept during this difficult time. We pray that the second officer recovers from their injuries,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit tweeted.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department sent a similar message.

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