2 State Police Helicopter Pilots Killed En Route To Fatal Virginia Car Crash

After violence erupted during Saturday’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., a helicopter carrying two state troopers en route to provide the city with backup crashed. Pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died at the scene.

In a statement, Virginia State Police said the helicopter was “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation” before falling into a wooded area, in Albemarle County, where Charlottesville is located.

That ongoing situation included the death of a 32-year-old woman when a car plowed into a group of anti-racist marchers.

James Alex Fields Jr. has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of the woman, who has not been officially identified, according to The Associated Press.

Dozens were treated for injuries throughout the day, including 19 from the car crash.

State police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the cause of the helicopter crash, with “no indication of foul play being a factor.”

Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty shared his condolences in the department’s statement.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” he said. “Their deaths are a tremendous loss to our agency and the Commonwealth.”

Cullen of Midlothian, Va., “was a highly-respected professional aviator,” Flaherty said.

Cullen, 48, graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in 1994 as a member of the 90th Basic Session. He joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999 and is survived by his wife and two sons.

Fellow trooper Bates of Quinton, Va., would have turned 41 years old on Sunday, police said.

Bates had just joined the aviation unit in July — “a welcome addition,” Flaherty said, “after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation.”

In 2004, he graduated from the state police academy as a member of the 107th Basic Session. Bates is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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