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Two officers killed in Atlanta police helicopter crash

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Officer Shawn Smiley and Officer Richard Halford Officer Shawn Smiley and Officer Richard Halford
ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Funeral information has been released for two officers who were killed when their police helicopter crashed late Saturday night in southwest Atlanta.

The pilot, Officer Richard J. Halford, 48, of Lithia Springs, had been with the Atlanta Police Department since 1986. Tactical Flight Officer Shawn A. Smiley, 40, of Lithonia had been with the department since 2010.

Services for Halford will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church. Services for Smiley will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church of Atlanta.

The helicopter crashed at about 10:30 p.m. near Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW and Hamilton E. Holmes Drive NW, not far from a CVS Pharmacy store.

A man who only identified himself as Zeus, who lives in an apartment near the scene of the crash, spoke to CBS Atlanta News at the scene of the accident, describing what he saw before the chopper fell.

"When I looked out the window, I saw a helicopter on top of CVS, just spinning in circles," Zeus said. "Next thing you know, it just went on down, fell in the highway and blew on up."

Police said Halford and Smiley were in the chopper searching for a missing 9-year-old boy, who was later found safe, and that the low-flying helicopter hit power lines in the area.

Early Sunday morning, Chief Turner told reporters that the loss of the officers was hard for his department to take.

"The loss of an officer is probably the most difficult thing a chief of police can have to deal with," he said. "Magnify that twice, it's a very difficult time for, not just me, but the entire Atlanta Police Department family."

The accident knocked out power for stores and homes in the area. Georgia Power crews worked through the night to restore electricity, and all of the 1,250 customers who were affected had power by early Sunday morning.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the accident.

On Sunday evening, NTSB spokesman Ralph Hicks held a press conference to discuss his agency's investigation into why the Hughes OH6A four-blade helicopter crashed.

"At some point during the flight, the aircraft swept one of the tops of one of the power poles around us right now," Hicks said. "We do have evidence that the aircraft did strike the support cables of the tops of the poles. About half of the landing gear remained on the top of the pole."

According to Hicks, the chopper flew about 90 feet before it crashed onto Hamilton E. Holmes Drive, where all of the wreckage was contained. No one else was injured in the crash.

Hicks said the NTSB may release a report in the next week with more details on the crash, but noted that there was no black box or recording device in this particular helicopter.

"We're looking at the man, the machine and the environment - all those things in great detail," Hicks said. "We're here to examine and really focus on the perishable evidence, take care of that first, then go into the things that aren't perishable later."

Officer Halford leaves behind a former wife and a 21-year-old daughter. Smiley leaves behind a wife and three children, ages 5, 7 and 9.

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Atlanta police chopper crash SIDEBAR

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Click here to see photos from the scene and investigation of the helicopter crash. See photos Atlanta Police Chief George Turner held a press conference shortly after two of his officers were killed

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