Tennessee State Trooper Lee Russell Dies in a Helicopter Crash

Lee Russell, a helicopter pilot for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, died in a helicopter crash near Chattanooga in Marion County.

In 2013, the THP announced the assignment of Russell to west Tennessee.

“Trooper Lee Russell has been assigned to pilot the helicopter. Russell is a native of west Tennessee (McKenzie) and graduated from the University of Tennessee Martin. He previously served with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office as a rotorcraft and fixed wing pilot for the 24th Judicial Drug Task before graduating from the THP Trooper Cadet Academy in 2010. Russell has been assigned to the Aviation Section and has undergone advanced flight training focusing on airborne law enforcement techniques.

“Our pilot is always on-call, ready to respond anywhere he is needed in west Tennessee. Trooper Russell has excelled in all areas of his advanced training and will no doubt prove to be a great asset to public safety in west Tennessee,” Trott said.

The aircraft is a 206 B Bell Jet Ranger. The helicopter is equipped with a Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) camera, a 20 million candle power Nightsun searchlight and specialized radios that allow pilots to communicate with most emergency agencies. THP pilots are equipped night vision goggles (NVGs) which offer the pilot a much better view during hours of darkness, allowing a higher level of safety and capability. Soon, the helicopter will be equipped with LoJack, which will aid in locating and recovering stolen vehicles. The system will be in operation at all times while the helicopter is in use.

The THP helicopter can be used in supporting efforts for vehicle surveillance; vehicle and foot pursuits; searches for criminal suspects; searches for missing, lost and/or endangered individuals which could include children, adults, and the mentally disabled. It can also provide air cover during critical incidents; photo flights for investigative purposes; post natural and manmade disaster missions; damage assessments; search and rescue of individuals in need of faster extraction for their wellbeing or situations that are impractical for ground personnel. Other duties could include educational details; and support for high-risk situations such as executing a search warrant or other unstable scenarios.

With the centralized location of the helicopter, it will allow for the most effective response times throughout west Tennessee. From its home in Jackson, the THP helicopter could respond to Tiptonville (Reelfoot Lake area) in 30 minutes; Memphis in 50 minutes; Paris (Kentucky Lake area) in 30 minutes; and Savannah (Pickwick Lake area) in 35 minutes. Previously, the THP would dispatch a pilot and helicopter from Nashville, adding an hour or more to the response time.

I’m at loss for words and truly ache for the family and dear friends who were grateful enough to be Lee’s friend. If you want to see a true example of just a great, loving person, it was Lee Russell. He was one phone call or text away if I needed him regardless if it was for personal reasons or business. We shared countless memories together and I’ll never take our friendship for granted. Fly high in that beautiful place, brother. We have it took care of down here! ❤️

-A dear friend to officer Lee Russell
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