A cold rain fell in Santa Ana early Tuesday afternoon as mourners gathered for a procession to honor Huntington Beach Officer Nicholas Vella, who was killed in a police helicopter crash over the weekend.
Vella, 44, was the passenger in the police helicopter that crashed in Newport Harbor near the Lido Peninsula on Saturday night. He was a 14-year veteran of the Huntington Beach Police Department and was previously a member of the Laguna Beach Police Department.
Vella is survived by his wife, Kristi Tovar, and a teenage daughter.
A second officer involved in the crash was released from the hospital Sunday and was identified as the pilot. An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, though Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said Tuesday that it could be up to a year before the cause could be known for certain.
The helicopter was en route to provide assistance in what is known as a “disturbance fight call” from Newport Beach, which contracts for aerial services as needed from the neighboring city.
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