The helicopter pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, Virginia, died at the scene of the crash in Albemarle County, the state police said in a statement included in a Twitter message sent by NBC29 of Charlottesville.
Virginia State Police stated, "formally established Jan. 1, 1984, the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit's primary mission is to provide aircraft for search, rescue, law enforcement and medical evacuation missions through its three Aviation Bases located in Chesterfield County, Lynchburg and Abingdon".
The helicopter was hovering near the white nationalist rally when it crashed into a wooded area on Old Farm Road around 5 p.m., just outside the city of Charlottesville, police said. The Bell 407 helicopter was assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville.
Police dispersed the rally after Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared the state of emergency Saturday morning.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation at this time by state police, the FAA and NTSB. The unit is staffed by Trooper-Pilots, all of whom are sworn members of the Department, are qualified "Police Pilots", and have private pilots' licenses. "This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years", he said.
Virginia State Police indicated foul play was not suspected in the crash. Our hearts go out to their wives and children, and we stand by to support them during this difficult time. These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken.
We join our fellow Virginians mourning for the two Virginia State Police Troopers who lost their lives in service to the Commonwealth. One person was killed and at least two dozen were hurt.
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