HUNTINGTON BEACH (CNS) – A solemn procession was held today to carry the body of Huntington Beach police Officer Nicholas Vella, who died when the police helicopter he was piloting crashed into the ocean water off Newport Beach, to a La Habra funeral home.
The procession left the Orange County coroner’s office in Santa Ana shortly after 1 p.m., with the hearse escorted by dozens of motorcycle officers and other law enforcement vehicles. Police on the ground saluted as the procession slowly passed by.
The HBPD helicopter crashed just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday while it was responding to a request for assistance from the Newport Beach Police Department involving a fight near 18th Street and Balboa Boulevard, authorities said.
Vella, 44, and another officer were pulled from the wreckage emergency responders and bystanders. Vella, a 14-year veteran of the department, was pronounced dead at a hospital. The other officer, a 16-year veteran who was not identified, was treated and released from the hospital Sunday.
Tuesday’s procession carried Vella’s body to Community Funeral Service in La Habra. Funeral arrangements were still pending.
Vella, who previously spent four years with the Laguna Beach Police Department, is survived by a wife and teenage daughter.
Meanwhile, the police department and Huntington Beach Police Officers Association announced a fundraising effort to support Vella’s family. Donations can be made at www.porac.org/fundraiser/support-officer-vella-his-family/.