Memorial service for Huntington Beach officer killed in helicopter crash

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A somber memorial service on Tuesday honored the life of the Huntington Beach police officer who was killed in a helicopter crash last month.

Thousands of mourners, including family members, friends and fellow law enforcement officers, attended the service dedicated to Ofc. Nicholas Vella at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The memorial was closed to the public but was livestreamed online.

The somber remembrances started with a procession through the city at 7 a.m., attended by the Huntington Beach Police Department and several other agencies. Dozens of people lined the streets to watch the solemn procession pass
by as it made its way to Honda Center. Some held up signs of signs of support, some saying simply "Thank you.''

On Feb. 19, the 44-year-old Vella and another officer were responding to a disturbance in Newport Beach when the helicopter hit a strip of water between Lido Isle and the Balboa Peninsula. Vella, a 14-year veteran with the police department, died in the crash. He leaves behind a wife and daughter.

Vella was an 18-year law enforcement veteran, serving 14 years with the Huntington Beach agency, following four years in Laguna Beach.
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The helicopter crash-landed at about 6:30 p.m. while responding to a disturbance near Newport Beach, according to police.

"I met Nick, but I didn't know Nick because I've only been here, it's my third month in Huntington Beach as the chief,'' HBPD Chief Eric Parra said during the service. "So I started to get familiar with him. So I asked my aide to get me his personnel file. And I'm reading them -- every single one -- 'This is the greatest guy, he's got the best communication style, he's going to do whatever he wants in this department, he's a leader, he exemplifies courage.' He's all of these things that are very positive in every single evaluation.''

A donation site has been set up to help Vella's family.

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