Dave Ketchum and Mike Libolt went through the police academy together, were the same age and on the job with the Costa Mesa Police Department for the same number of years.
They worked together and flew together.
On March 10, 1987, they died together.
Family members, friends, former coworkers and current department personnel gathered at Costa Mesa Police headquarters on Friday, March 10 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the helicopter crash that killed both men.
The high point was the unveiling of a memorial that takes up an entire wall adjacent to the watch commander’s office.
The memorial is black, accented with blue lighting, with photos of Libolt and Ketchum together and a photo of both men together.
The phrase “IN MEMORIAM” is displayed in white lettering at the top.
“It took my breath away,” said Meg Ketchum, Dave Ketchum’s widow. “I expected just a little plaque. To keep their names alive in the police department is so important to me and I so appreciate it.”
Dignitaries at the memorial included former Costa Mesa chiefs Dave Snowden and Roger Neth.
Ketchum, an outdoorsman with a passion for fishing and camping, and Libolt, with his sharp wit and model looks, were killed when their helicopter, Eagle II, collided with a Newport Beach helicopter over Irvine while in pursuit of a suspect in a stolen car.
They were 39 and with the department for 15 years.
Jeffrey Pollard, a civilian flight instructor, also died in the crash.
On March 13, 1987, a double-funeral service was held at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, attended by 1,200 uniformed officers and 3,500 mourners overall.
A highlight from that day was a flyover with choppers from county police agencies flying in a V formation, leaving gaps for Libolt and Ketchum.
Libolt and Ketchum were the first and only officers killed in the line of duty in the department’s history.
The accident led to a standardization of protocols among police agencies related to helicopter operations, said retired Costa Mesa police Lt. David Brooks, supervisor of the department’s six-man helicopter unit.
“This organization was shaken, was tested and was tried during that time, and I can tell you that we are much stronger today because of it,” Police Chief Rob Sharpnack said. “While we remember this event, their sacrifice lives on in every single one of us.”