Officer Norris Epps, Jr., age 30, and police pilot Dan Gilligan were searching Old Tampa Bay at night for a missing Orlando firefighter when their helicopter slammed into the water on the south side of the Howard Franklin Bridge.
Officer Ed Bowden, who jumped into the bay using his squad car's back seat for a flotation device, rescued Gilligan. However, Officer Epps slipped under the 65-degree water and disappeared. His body was found a week later.
Epps, a six-year patrol veteran, was on temporary assignment as a flight observer before he was able to reach his choice assignment as a canine handler.