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article imageSearch for missing child turns tragic for Atlanta police

By Greta McClain     Nov 4, 2012 in World
Atlanta - What started out as a routine aerial search for a missing 9 year-old Atlanta boy quickly turned into tragedy for the Atlanta Police Department and community.
Shortly after 9:00 p.m. Saturday, Officers Richard Halford and Shawn Smiley responded to a report of a missing child at 1855 Joseph E. Boone Blvd. N W. on the northwest side of Atlanta GA. As they conducted an aerial search for the young boy, something went terribly wrong. At 10:30 p.m., the helicopter lost control and crashed, killing both officers on impact.
Officer Richard J. Halford, 48, was a 26 year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department. He had served as a member of the Air Unit for 16 years. He is survived by his wife and 21-year-old daughter.
Officer Richard Halford
Officer Richard Halford
Atlanta Police Department/Facebook
Officer Shawn A. Smiley, 40, had served with the Atlanta Police Department for 2 years. He joined the Air Unit earlier this year. He is survived by his wife and three children, ages 5, 7, and 9.
In a press release issued by the Atlanta Police Department, Mayor Kasim Reed said:
"Our hearts and prayers are with the families of Officer Shawn Smiley and Officer Richard Halford on this difficult day in the City of Atlanta. The entire city stands with the families and the Atlanta Police Department during this time of grief."
A witness to the crash told WRDW he saw the helicopter spinning in circles before it crashed.
"Next thing you know, it just went on down, fell in the highway and blew on up."
Officer Shawn A. Smiley
Officer Shawn A. Smiley
Atlanta Police Department/Facebook
Fox News Atlanta reports that witnesses told investigators they saw a flash of light which they believe was the helicopter hitting a power pole and supporting cables. A landing skid for the helicopter was found in the power lines.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board responded to the crash scene early Sunday morning. Both agencies are conducting an investigation into the cause of the crash. They hope by Monday industry experts with be able to determine if mechanical problems are to blame.
The 9-year-old boy was found a short time after the crash. He was unharmed and had reportedly run away from home after being scolded by his mother.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner told CNN:
"Losing an officer is the most difficult thing a police chief can face. Losing two is an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families of these officers and our thoughts and prayers are with them. This is a difficult day ... it is a reminder of their bravery and the sacrifices made by our officers every day."
Trust funds have been set up to benefit the officers' families through any Wells Fargo bank location. Contributions may be made in the name of the officers beginning at noon on Monday.
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