On September 29, the Pennsylvania State Police was called to respond to an unruly large-scale tailgate party that resulting in a risk to people and property. The PSP deployed officers, including the Pennsylvania State Police Tactical Mounted Unit, which attempted to disperse the crowd. Two PSP horses ended up being assaulted and a trooper was injured. After ground units retreated, the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit was called to assist. A helicopter attempted to disperse the crowd via loudspeaker.
In the aftermath, partygoers complained that objects on the ground were disturbed or damaged by the helicopters. Pennsylvania State Police issued a statement saying that “there was no intent by the pilot or supervisors on the ground to disturb property” and that “safety is the top priority of the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit.”
Now, an investigation is being carried out by state police and the Federal Aviation.
In a statement, the Pennsylvania State Police, said, “The PSP is aware of, and fully cooperating with, an FAA investigation into the incident involving a PSP helicopter in State College on September 29, 2018. Additionally, PSP is conducting an internal review of the incident.
“A helicopter from the PSP Aviation Section attempted to disperse a large, unruly crowd via loudspeaker after orders from troopers on the ground and the Tactical Mounted Section were ignored. There was no intent by the pilot or supervisors on the ground to disturb property, and the department regrets any damage caused as a result.
“Safety is the top priority of the Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit, which flew 1,841 missions in service to the commonwealth in 2017. The fleet is comprised of nine helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft.”
Reports said the police helicopter flew close to the ground creating a disturbance at pre-White Out tailgates by overturning tents, grills, and other items. The reports also state that a video showed the helicopter flying as low as 30 feet from the ground at the tailgate lot, which is located at the corner section of Orchard Road and Park Ave.
Tailgater Scott Olson said police hadn’t been present all day but that sometime between 3:30 and 4 pm eight officers showed up on horseback. Shortly after, the helicopter flew in.
“There was no fighting or big disruption. No one was doing anything crazy or outlandish. We didn’t have any issue with them all day,” said Olson, who said his Mercedes-Benz was scratched by a flying tent, while a girl at his tailgate was cut by flying debris.
“Can you imagine if a helicopter sent debris that hit a horse and it got spooked and started trampling the kids? This could’ve been a tragedy. If that helicopter had any type of accident, you would’ve had people shredded everywhere and cars on fire. It’s so fortunate that there wasn’t a major tragedy yesterday,” he added.