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Heroes Down: Tenn. Highway Patrol Sgt. Harold ‘Lee’ Russell & Marion County Det. Matthew Blansett Die In Helicopter Crash

Whiteside, TN – Two law enforcement officers were killed in a helicopter crash Tuesday afternoon after their helicopter struck power lines.

The incident occurred at around 4 p.m. over a wooded area on Aetna Mountain near Whiteside, according to USA Today.

The two law enforcement officers were flying a Bell 206B helicopter when they struck power lines and their helicopter went down.

A witness described the crash to WVLT.

“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,” the witness said, according to CBS News. “I slammed on the brakes and stopped about two car lengths from the line.”

Both officers were killed in the crash. They were later identified as 40-year-old Marion County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) Detective Matthew “Matt” Blansett and 35-year-old Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Sergeant Harold “Lee” Russell, according to the New York Post.

“There are no words to describe the heartache and sadness our department is experiencing right now,” Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long said, according to WKRN. “Sergeant Russell was an outstanding pilot but an even better person. We mourn with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in the loss of Detective Matt Blansett. Both men were passionate about their jobs. This is a tremendous loss for the Tennessee law enforcement community. We ask for prayers of comfort for the families, our department, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department during this dark and difficult time.”

Sergeant Russell started his law enforcement career as a reserve deputy for Henry County while he was studying at U.T. Martin, according to WDEF.

He worked as an intern for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and was a part-time pilot for the 24th Judicial District Drug Task Force before joining THP after graduating.

Sergeant Russell is survived by his wife, son, and daughter.

Detective Blansett started his law enforcement career as a dispatcher for MCSD in 2002, according to The Chattanoogan.

He later went on to become a deputy and eventually became a detective and the commander of the SWAT team.

Detective Blansett is survived by his wife and two sons.

Detective Blansett will be laid to rest Saturday and Sergeant Russell will be laid to rest Sunday.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of THP Sergeant Lee Russell and MCSD Detective Matt Blansett, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Rest easy, heroes. We’ll hold the line from here.

Written by
Christopher Berg

Editor-in-Chief: Twitter/@SnarkyCop. Christopher left his job as a police officer to manage The Police Tribune to provide context to the public about police incidents. Before becoming a police officer, he worked as a law enforcement dispatcher trainer.

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Written by Christopher Berg


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