Retired Seattle Police Officers Association

By: Officer Mike Severance – North Precinct

 George P. Tielsch was appointed Seattle Chief of Police in September 1970. The Department had a helicopter before that, but it never went out on routine patrol. In 1971, the SPD received a $125,000 federal grant for a Police Helicopter Program. Air 1, a Hughes 300C helicopter, went into service in the summer of 1971. Air 2, another Hughes 300C, went into service in 1972. Air 3, a Bell 47 helicopter, went into service sometime later. The helicopters were an invaluable asset. Chief Tielsch also established our Canine Unit, and gave us our current shoulder patch and the blue/white color scheme on our patrol cars.
The SPD Air Unit encouraged patrol officers to sign up for shifts as Helicopter Observers. These ride-alongs familiarized patrol officers with Air Unit operations and the capabilities of the helicopters.
On June 21, 1974, a patrol officer from the Georgetown Precinct was scheduled to be the Helicopter Observer on Air 3. He and Officer James M. Forbes, 28, from the Georgetown Precinct, had swapped days. Officer James H. St. DeLore, 31, was the pilot of Air 3.
Around 3:40 p.m., Air 3 was looking for a stolen vehicle around Empire Way S. (MLK Way S.) and S. Kenyon. SPD Communications received a disturbance call involving a weapon in the 9300 block of 37 Ave. S. Patrol units and Air 3 responded. Air 3 arrived overhead, and circled the scene twice. As the first patrol units were arriving at the scene around 3:45 p.m., Air 3 collided with a Cessna 150 airplane which was preparing to land at Boeing Field. The collision occurred at an altitude of about 800 feet. Air 3 and the Cessna both fell to the ground. The police helicopter hit the roof of a house at 9302 37 Ave. S. It came to rest in the front yard, and burst into flames. Both officers aboard Air 3 were killed upon impact with the ground. Both occupants of the Cessna were also killed. One of the patrol officers at the scene was the officer who had swapped days with Officer Forbes.
Officer James H. St. DeLore was survived by his wife, Phyllis, a son, Jeffrey, and a daughter, Jennifer. His funeral was held on 6-25-74 at the Assembly of God Church in Renton. Officer St. DeLore was buried at Orting Cemetery.
Officer James M. Forbes was survived by his wife, Belva, two sons, Jack and John, and a daughter, Jennifer. His funeral was held on 6-26-74 at the Wiggen and Sons Chapel. His body was returned to his birthplace in Sharon, PA for burial.
The NTSB investigated the mid-air collision. Their final report assigned blame to the air traffic controllers at Boeing Field and both pilots.
James Howard St. DeLore was born on February 7, 1943. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army. He had 3,000 flight hours, including 2,000 hours as an Army helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. He was commissioned as a Seattle police officer on March 2, 1970. His widow, Phyllis, eventually re-married and currently lives in Sedro Wooley. Jeffrey lives in Seattle. Jennifer lives in Mount Vernon.
James Melvin Forbes was born on March 12, 1946 in Sharon, PA. He was commissioned as a Seattle police officer on June 17, 1969. Belva Forbes died in 2010. His sons, Jack and John, live in Seattle.
After Charles Royer, a local television commentator, was elected Seattle Mayor in 1978, the Air Unit was disbanded. The Department lost an irreplaceable asset.
In May 1998, Officers James H. St. DeLore and James M. Forbes were among the forty Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1976, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. Both officers’ families were present at the ceremony and received the officers’ medals