Glen Grossman photo: LAPD Patrol HelicopterAn 18 year old Van Nuys resident was in custody just after 6:00 am on Easter Sunday morning after police received a call of the subject firing a gun into the air from his front lawn. As police officers arrived on scene, along with the Los Angeles Police Helicopter, the subject began shooting at the helicopter.
According to an L.A. Times report, officers on the ground witnessed the suspect firing at the helicopter. The suspect, Danny Lopez, was quickly tackled by his own family members preventing further violence. The helicopter, struck in the fuel tank, made an emergencly landing at near by Van Nuys Airport. The police pilot and tactical flight officer were uninjured, but confirmed that the helicopter was hit by rifle fire.
LAPD maintains one of the largest municipal police helicopter fleets in the world with the following helicopters; 12 Aerospatiale B-2 Astars, 4 Bell 206 Jet Rangers, 1 UH-1H "Huey" heliocpter, and 1 King Air 200 Fixed Wing. In the last few years LAPD returned to a more traditional black & white patrol car type paint sceme for their fleet of patrol helicopters.
So there I was on my day off, watching some of the breaking coverage of the untimely death of Mr. Michael Jackson when into the picture swoops a rather large green helicopter with the word "Sheriff" on the side. The reporter began explaining that the helicopter was there to transport the body of Michael Jackson from the hospital to the Coroners officer due to the clogged streets and throngs of people who had gathered at the hospital.
I must admit that the my very first thought was that this was really "over the top" and that someone somewhere was making an even bigger spectacle out of Mr. Jackson's death than what circumstances called for. Not to take anything away from Michael Jackson, but to send a very large rescue helicopter at tax payers expense to transport his remains, seemed to be playing right into the media hype and extravagance.
It was not long however before I realized that it was probably a very smart decision which solved a huge problem for a number of high level decision makers in numerous Los Angeles City and County Departments, (Police, Sheriff, Public Works, Coroner, etc.). The problem was blatantly obvious. How do you get Mr. Jackson's body from the hospital to the coroners office without bringing the surrounding city streets to a standstill, and really creating a spectacle. Not only do helicopters save lives, but they solve problems, and the presence of this helicopter and crew surely helped in solving a few logistical problems that suddenly befell the county and city governments yesterday.
So just who was this helicopter and crew that received world wide media coverage when they were called upon to transport Mr. Jackson's body?
While I don't have exact names it appears to be the Los Angeles Sheriff's "Air Rescue 5" unit flying one of their Sikorsky H3 Sea King helicopters. The Air Rescue 5 program provides search and rescue capabilities for Los Angeles County California and is arguably one of the most elite civilian helicopter operations in the world. Each H3 Sea King is staffed by two deputy sheriff pilots, one sergeant/crew chief, and two Emergency Service Detail deputy paramedics.
I guess even in the air unit you never know what the day will bring when you show up to work for the start of your shift.