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'It's Just A Tragic Loss For All Of Us;' Locals React To Tragic Helicopter Crash That Took Officer Nicholas Vella's Life

HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) — All of Southern California was shaken on Saturday evening, when a Huntington Beach Police Department helicopter crash-landed into waters off the coast of Newport Beach. Officer Nicholas Vella, 44, was killed in the incident, while the other pilot on board is said to have sustained varying injuries but is in stable condition.

Nicholas Vella Memorial

Now, the same community that Vella served for nearly 15 years is turning out in droves to offer support to his family and the law enforcement community mourning the loss of their loved one.

RELATED: 1 Officer Dead, 1 Injured After Huntington Beach Police Helicopter Crashes In Newport Beach

Partner law enforcement agencies, former police officers and Orange County residents could be seen visiting the Huntington Beach Police Department headquarters to leave offerings of condolences Sunday.

"We're deeply sorry for the family, for the police department for the community," said Rob Thorsen, an Orange County local who recently retired from the Orange Police Department that stopped to drop off bouquets of flowers. "It's just a tragic loss for all of us.  The least we could do was bring down a bunch of flowers"

Nicholas Vella Memorial

Hawthorne Police Department's Air Unit was another local branch represented in Huntington Beach on Sunday seen leaving a tribute to their fallen brother.

Other officers from Los Angeles County also visited the scene, including Joel Diconti, who wanted to make sure that despite their tragic loss, Vella's family is not alone.

"They have the whole community with them. The community of Huntington and the community of law enforcement.  Everybody - they're there for them," he said. "I'm sure they'll know. They'll feel it. It's tough. If they need anybody, I'm here. Anybody is there for them."

Another Orange County resident, Kappy Thorsen echoed that sentiment.

"We just want to know that they're loved and in our prayers," she said.

While most of the mourners on hand didn't know Vella personally, his loss death still hit them hard.

"They're out best friends when we need them," said Carole Pardee, who visited the memorial site with her husband John.

"I don't know him personally no," John said, "but I've had interactions with the Huntington Beach Police Department and they've always been good."

California Governor Gavin Newsom also paid his respects on Sunday afternoon, releasing a statement on Officer Vella's death, which read:

"Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Officer Vella. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and the entire Huntington Beach Police Department. Officer Vella's bravery and commitment to protecting his community will not be forgotten."

Huntington Beach city government has announced that they will be setting up a memorial fund for Officer Vella's family.

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