CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – News 3 has learned the passenger killed in Friday’s tragic Metro Narcotics Task Force Helicopter crash was a “ride-along” and never should have been on the doomed flight as the agency’s CEO confirms only law enforcement members are allowed on board.
53-year-old pilot David Hall and a 22-year-old non-law enforcement passenger were killed Friday when agents say the aircraft hit a power line stretching across the Coosa River and crashed into Lake Mitchell in Alabama. The Chilton County Coroner is not releasing the name of the 22-year-old passenger at the request of the man’s family.
Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley is the CEO the multi-agency Metro Narcotics Task Force. The agency covers Harris, Muscogee and Russell County as well as Columbus and Phenix City. Sheriff Jolley says Hall was a retired Columbus Police Officer and a reserve deputy who flew for the task force.
Sheriff Jolley tells News 3 Hall was not authorized to have the 22-year-old man on board as a “ride-along” because policy and procedures prevent non-law enforcement members from flying on the helicopter. Jolley says it was confirmed Hall made an unscheduled stop at Auburn, Alabama’s airport on Friday to pick the 22-year-old up after Hall took off initially from the airport in Columbus, Georgia. Sheriff Holley says it appears Hall was teaching the young man to fly fixed-wing aircraft, but was not instructing him on how to operate a helicopter at the time of the crash. Jolley says Hall had been “counseled” before on having non-law enforcement personnel on board the helicopter as “ride-along” passengers.
An Auburn University spokesperson has confirmed with News 3 the 22-year-old passenger who was killed was not affiliated with AU.
The Metro Narcotics Task Force helicopter went down in the Cargile Creek area of Lake Mitchell on Friday. Jolley says after the crash they learned Hall had a passenger on board while Hall was flying the helicopter to a maintenance shop near Clanton. Multiple agencies worked day and night during a 48-hour recovery effort to locate the bodies, which are being sent to the Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery for examination.
Sheriff Jolley says he has known Hall for a long time and many in law enforcement are devastated by his death and that of the 22-year-old passenger. Jolley says his thoughts and prayers go out to both families. Teresa Tomlinson sent out a social media post over the weekend mourning the deaths of Hall and his passenger.
“It is with great sorrow that the Columbus, Georgia Consolidated Government and the Columbus Police Department (CPD) announce the death of retired officer David Hall. David Hall, who still served the city through his piloting skills, David was 53 years old at the time of his death. He started with the CPD in 1990 and served honorably for 28 years. David was a graduate of Jordan High School and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He was beloved and respected by his fellow officers and by all who knew him. He will be missed. Our hearts go out to those who are suffering with this loss” Tomlinson wrote.
The crash is under investigation by the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the exact cause.