October 22, 2001
Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Shanley, (863) 534-6631 or
PCSO Mourns the
Loss of Pilot and Flight Officer
The Polk County
Sheriff's Office is mourning the loss of a pilot and flight officer who
were killed in a helicopter crash early this morning (Monday, Oct. 22,
Deputy Sheriff Pilot Brian Wilkinson, 33, of
Lake Alfred, and Deputy Sheriff Flight Officer Larry
Rhoden, 33, of Ft. Meade, were killed when their Sheriff's Office
helicopter - a 1971 OH58 Bell Jet Ranger - crashed into a pond/pasture
near Old Bartow Eagle Lake Road in Bartow (near Lake Hancock) shortly
after 1 a.m. this morning.
Earlier in the morning, the air unit - Air One - responded to the Eaton
Park area of Lakeland to assist patrol deputies in a burglary call in
which a possible suspect had fled on foot. After the arrest of three
suspects, Air One cleared the call with dispatch at 12:58 a.m. The air
crew's last transmission was a request from a patrol deputy at 1:06 a.m.
to conduct a routine aerial patrol of the Florida Power Plant located at
640 and 555. Air One could not be reached at 1:11 a.m. when PCSO dispatch
attempted to call them to respond to assist Winter Haven Police in a
pursuit. Further attempts to contact the air crew were unsuccessful, and
an aerial search was conducted.
At approximately 3:30 a.m., the wreckage of the helicopter was spotted
from the air, and ground units responded to search for the crew. Both
occupants were found deceased at the scene of the crash. The NTSB
responded and assumed the investigation.
Wilkinson is survived by his wife and one-year-old son. He began his
career at the Sheriff's Office in 1994. He joined the Aviation Unit in
March of 2001.
Rhoden is survived by his wife and three sons, ages 6 to 13 years old. He
was hired in 1991, and joined the Aviation Unit in January of 2001.
Memorial services are being arranged, and will be announced as soon as