Aug 12, 2017, 11:39 PM ET

2 Virginia state troopers assisting Charlottesville protest response die in helicopter accident

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Two Virginia State Police officers who were assisting in the response to the violence surrounding a planned white nationalist rally in Charlottesville died Saturday afternoon after their helicopter crashed seven miles southwest of the city.

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The officers were traveling in a Virginia State Police helicopter "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville," according to a spokesperson for the state police, where a confrontation between white nationalists and counter-protesters turned violent in city streets.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died at the scene, said the state police.

PHOTO: Virginia State Police officer H. Jay Cullen seen in this image released by Virginia State police, Aug. 12, 2017. Virginia State Police
Virginia State Police officer H. Jay Cullen seen in this image released by Virginia State police, Aug. 12, 2017.

PHOTO: Virginia State Police officer Berke M.M. Bates seen in this image released by Virginia State police, Aug. 12, 2017.Virginia State Police
Virginia State Police officer Berke M.M. Bates seen in this image released by Virginia State police, Aug. 12, 2017.

The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Virginia State Police are all investigating the crash, which took place in a wooded area. There were no injuries on the ground from the accident.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe released a statement on the deaths Saturday evening, saying that he and his wife, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe knew Cullen and Bates personally from their time flying the pair across Virginia and serving on their "Executive Protective Unit," respectively.

"This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth," said McAuliffe, adding, "These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken."

Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent was quoted in the state police's release:

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day."

ABC News' Lucien Bruggeman contributed to this report.

News - 2 Virginia state troopers assisting Charlottesville protest response die in helicopter accident

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CComments

  • Joe14228

    "Monitoring the situation"? Maybe if they had some better training this wouldn't have happened. I didn't hear anything about anyone shooting at helicopters, or any shooting at all. Both sides looked like they were itching for a fight. Stay away from trouble is my motto.

  • Eye Candy

    The NTSB is surely on the scene to investigate the crash by now. Their go team arrives as quick as they can. Mean while the scene is held for them. It will be determined if there was mechanical failure and what caused it. I doubt they will find pilot error.

  • rightened

    THIS is the cost that many people can't see. We all feel so justified to go out and do what we want to do, but when there are those around who have to answer the call to observe and protect us--be it first responders in the city or rescuers in mountain and desert areas--then those lives are put in an equal if not greater amount of danger.

    Someone goes skiing when the Weather Service predicts a storm, gets caught in a storm and breaks a leg, and rescuers have to endanger their lives to help that person... this wasn't much different. The alert was out that there was danger in the city, police had to be up in the air to observe and report on the situation, and they suffered the consequences.

  • Stick Jockey

    RIP troopers

  • NeuroGoddess

    Notice how the Orange One called it violence "on many sides." He still doesn't get it.

  • Personal

    Oh, no! Oh, I am so sorry to hear this. So much needless death and injuries because these racists wanted to look big.

  • Dicazi

    My thoughts and prayers to the families.

  • 7iThor

    Prayers to the families. What a sad story. RIP.

  • Mookie T. Cat

    So sad that the deaths of two law enforcement personnel elicit so many loser responses.

    Condolences to the families, co-workers, and friends of the deceased. And to all of the counter-protesters cut down by the deranged driver at the demonstrations. If the hateful rhetoric does not stop, we can expect more of the same and, probably, the same results.

  • RRbane

    Rest in peace heroes & thank you for you service!

  • tstorm

    All because of Conservative extremism. And Trump won't even have the decency to denounce these alt-right terrorists...

  • Eye Candy

    It's related because the chopper was on duty flying over the riots to monitor. They were away from the area because they were leaving or arriving. RIP brave heroes.

  • helicohunter

    What and awful day in Charlottesville. I sure hope the protests stop.

  • Jacob's Trouble

    ABC keeps referring white nationalists.
    Should this be inferred as there are no nationalists in any other race/color?

  • kaymichigan1

    My news keeps saying this crash is related to the rally but they aren't saying how.

  • FasterBadger

    Note to self: Stay away from Charlottesville.