Two Tennessee officers dead in helicopter crash

WHITESIDE, Tenn. — Two Tennessee law enforcement officers died when their helicopter hit power lines and crashed in a wooded area. The lines fell across an interstate and lanes of the highway were shut down as first responders looked for the crash site, officials said.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lee Russell of the Aviation Division and Marion County Sheriff’s Department Detective Matt Blansett were killed in the crash Tuesday afternoon in Marion County, the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security said.

Law enforcement officials prepare for a news conference in Whiteside, Tennessee.
Law enforcement officials prepare for a news conference in Whiteside, Tennessee.
Carmen Nesbitt/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP
Marion County Sheriff’s Department Detective Matt Blansett died in the fatal helicopter crash.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office Det. Matt Blansett died in the fatal helicopter crash.
Tennessee HighWay Patrol
Marion County Sheriff's Office Deputy and Marion County Commissioner Matt Blansett
Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lee Russell was killed in the helicopter crash.
Tennessee HighWay Patrol
The Tennessee Department of Transportation reported the law enforcement helicopter had clipped a power line.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation reported the law enforcement helicopter had clipped a power line.
WTVC

Highway Patrol Capt. Travis Plotzer said the National Transportation Safety Board was leading an investigation.

The helicopter hit power lines on Aetna Mountain near Whiteside, Tennessee, causing the lines to fall across Interstate 24, officials said.

Motorist Dan Hostetler told WVLT-TV he saw a black helicopter flying in circles before he narrowly missed getting hit by the electrical cables.

Police arrive at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash in Whiteside, Tennessee on August 23, 2022.
Police arrive at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash in Whiteside, Tennessee, on August 23, 2022.
Carmen Nesbitt/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP
Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lee Russell is seen with a helicopter.
Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lee Russell is seen next to a helicopter.
West Tennessee Drug Task Force
SGT. Lee Russell of the Tennessee Highway Patrol
Authorities are currently investigating if the helicopter malfunctioned.
West Tennessee Drug Task Force

“It kind of dipped a little bit and waggled a little bit, then there was a bright flash of light and puff of smoke, and it hit one of the power lines that went across the highway, and sure enough the power lines started gliding down toward me and all I could think was it’s going to land on top of me,” Hostetler said. “I slammed on the brakes and stopped about two car lengths from the line.”

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