FAA’s changes preliminary report to “unknown circumstances” that led to BRPD chopper crash

WEST BATON ROUGE — Two Baton Rouge Police officers were killed after one of the Baton Rouge Police Department helicopters crashed early Sunday morning, officials have confirmed.

The Federal Aviation Administration released a preliminary report Monday morning saying the “aircraft tail rotor struck a tree and crashed inverted in a field, Port Allen.”

Since then, the FAA has now changed their report to read “Aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances in a field, Port Allen, La.”

Sources have told UWK the FAA did not get to the deadly crash scene till Sunday at 5pm and the next morning, a preliminary report was issued saying the chopper hit a tree. Many in the aviation industry have been telling UWK that the FAA’s claim of hitting a tree was not possible as there are no trees at the altitude the chopper was at when it crashed.

The Robinson helicopter was manufactured in 2009 and registered to the Baton Rouge Police Dept. It was one of two helicopters BRPD used as part of their Air Support division.

Officials have said the officers were assisting with a vehicle pursuit near Florida Blvd. and Airline Hwy. in Baton Rouge and Air One left the Baton Rouge Airport at 2:26am to assist with the pursuit. The car police were pursuing, a Ford Mustang, crossed into West Baton Rouge Parish going speeds of more than 150 mph.

Witnesses say that patrol officers and the chopper followed the Mustang along Hwy. 415. But the driver of the Mustang was eventually able to outrun the chopper. That driver has since been arrested and now facing two counts of manslaughter.

Sources say that the chopper was turning around and heading back to Baton Rouge after the pursuit was cancelled when it crashed in a cane field off S. Winterville Rd. near Erwinville.

Data from the website Flight Aware shows that the chopper was only in the air twelve minutes. The officers took off from the Baton Rouge airport at 2:26 a.m. before crashing at 2:38 a.m. March 26.

Source: Flight Aware

Officials did not realize the deadly crash until late Sunday morning, some eight to nine hours after the crash, sources tell UWK.

The FAA has been called in to lead the crash investigation, and the NTSB will be assisting in that investigation. The FAA has since issued a “no fly zone” over the crash site effective through March 27 at 5:59pm.

UWK is withholding the officer’s identities until their families can be notified.

“Today is an emotional day for the Baton Rouge Police Department,” Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said during a Sunday afternoon news conference. “Right now we are asking the community to lift up our officers up in prayers, to lift the family members of the two heroes we lost today … up in prayer.”

Paul did not release many details and did not answer questions during his news conference at the crash site. Instead, he asked for patience as investigators work to figure out what happened.

“This is still an active investigation as we speak,” Paul said. “Please pray for the families of our officers.”

This is a developing story. Check back often for new information.

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