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.
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.
“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.”