Recovery efforts continue for helicopter crash in Lake Mitchell

Search efforts suspended after helicopter crash in Lake Mitchell

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A day after a Georgia law enforcement helicopter crashed into Lake Mitchell crews had to stop their recovery efforts for the night, after the currents became too strong.

The Russell County Sheriff, Heath Taylor, said that while their visibility was better on Saturday than it was on Friday, the currents were much worse.

“The divers have to do things at their pace and in a safe manner, and we don’t want to put anyone else in harm’s way," said Taylor.

While the dive team has located the helicopter in the lake, they haven’t been able to retrieve it.

“We’re hoping that the equipment, the sonar that we have and the divers that are in the water will be able to get video and hopefully see a little bit about what’s inside the vessel, so that we can make a determination if that vessel will be stable enough to lift. If there are bodies in it, then we will try to lift it. If not, we may have to use the divers to recover the bodies," said Taylor.

Taylor said there was a possibility that there was another passenger on board when the helicopter supposedly struck a power line and crashed into the lake.

“There’s possibly another person in there with our pilot and we won’t know that until we get further information, either through a diver or potentially video," said Taylor.

Taylor said the crews are now “in recovery mode, not search mode."

“We’ve exhausted our efforts in trying to locate them by phone and those types of things. I don’t know that we are thinking that somebody has survived the crash, unfortunately," said Taylor.

According to Taylor, officials have been working with Alabama Power to get the water from the two dams nearby slowed down to make their recovery efforts easier.

“Right now, our focus is getting whatever is in that helicopter to the top and to the land," said Taylor.

The names of the potential victims have not been released. Officials are attempting to notify their families. WSFA was told that the pilot was a retired Columbus Police Officer; however, he worked part time for the Metro Narcotics Task Force in Columbus, Georgia.

Crews will resume their recovery efforts Sunday morning at 8 a.m.

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