Updated:COLUMBUS, Ga. —
The family of an Atlanta police officer killed in a helicopter crash in November spoke to Channel 2's Eric Philips about the loss they're still struggling to cope with.
The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing their probe into what caused the helicopter to crash. But Richard Halford's parents said their son was an excellent pilot, who was meticulous and detailed. They believe whatever happened on that tragic night was out of his control.
"He was my heart; all of my kids, but he had a special place in my heart," a tearful Frances Halford said.
Frances Halford said her life was changed forever the night of Nov. 3. That was the night the helicopter her son, Richard Halford, was flying went down in northwest Atlanta, killing him and APD officer Shawn Smiley. It was after midnight when she and her husband, Halford's father, Carl Halford, rushed from Columbus, Ga. to Atlanta.
"I was hoping against hope that maybe it was intensive care and I said I know if I can get there. I know once he could hear my voice I could save my child," Frances Halford said.
"I think once I walked in I knew, I knew the worst," she said.
The Halfords have been to the crash site, a feeling that for them was surreal.
"This is where my child took his last breath, so that site will always have a special meaning to me," she said.
As Frances Halford showed Philips keepsakes the APD gave the family, she said her son expressed an interest in aviation as a young child. Years later, the parents would pay for flight lessons for Joey, as the Tuskegee graduate was known by his family. They're as proud of him today as they were 26 years ago when he first joined the Atlanta Police Department.
"When he was awarded his badge, unexpected he come over to me to pin his badge on him," Carl Halford said.
"Whatever the average was he was always a cut above the rest," Frances Halford said.
"And though I've said he went too early, I have to trust God to know he's too wise to make a mistake."
The Halfords want to express their thanks for the enormous outpouring of support they've received. They're looking forward to going to Washington, DC next year when the names of Richard Halford and Shawn Smiley are added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Philips also sat down with Smiley's family. Hear what the children of the beloved father had to say Thursday on Channel 2 Action News.