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VSP identifies troopers killed in helicopter crash near Charlottesville

VSP identifies troopers killed in helicopter crash near Charlottesville

Virginia Sate Police have identified the two troopers killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday.

State Police said Saturday that the helicopter crashed in a wooded area near a home.

The Bell 407 helicopter was assisting public safety resources with the violent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Virginia State Police confirmed that pilots Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, and Berke M.M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, died in the wreck.

Geller said the aircraft was not the state police helicopter seen circling above Saturday's white nationalist rally in downtown Charlottesville, a gathering at which a vehicle was driven into a group of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19.

Virginia State Police indicated foul play was not suspected in the crash.

"Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day", said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. "Lieutenant Cullen was a highly-respected professional aviator and Trooper-Pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation Unit, after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation". He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session.

The two victims were the only people on board the helicopter and there were no injuries to anyone on the ground, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

Bates would have turned 41 years old Sunday, Aug. 13.

"Berke was doing what he always wanted to do, he wanted to help people, that's what led him to become a state trooper in first place", Craig Bates said.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team". "Jay Cullen had been flying me around for three-and-a-half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years", he said.

This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth. He is survived by his wife and two children, a son and daughter.

"These heroes were part of our family and we are simply heartbroken", McAuliffe said Saturday evening.