While Monitoring Charlottesville’s White Nationalist Rally, Virginia Loses Two of Its Finest

“It just breaks our heart. It’s senseless.” –Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

As the eyes of the world watched the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville on Saturday, Virginia State Police dressed in riot gear were on duty while dozens of them helped prevent more violence.

Hundreds of protesters clashed on the streets with multiple injuries before a State of Emergency was declared by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Crowds dispersed but were still in the area when a car purposely plowed into a large group that was walking along Fourth Street. Dozens were injured, and 32-year-old Heather Heyer died.

Reeling from the violence and death of a pedestrian, the tragic events of the day were not finished for Virginia.

Around the time President Donald Trump went on TV to give a statement about the events in central Virginia, a Virginia State Police helicopter took off from the Chesterfield County Airport and flew west to provide surveillance work related to the violence taking place in Charlottesville.

An hour later, a plume of smoke from the countryside west of the city marked the crash site where the helicopter unexpectedly fell from the sky and burst into flames.

Word of the crash spread quickly on social media. Stunned disbelief from Virginians already shaken from the day’s events quickly turned to grief at the news that two troopers had lost their lives.

They were identified as Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, the pilot and a veteran trooper with 20 years of experience flying for VSP and commander of the aviation unit, and Trooper Berke Bates, who would have turned 41 the day after his death and was a member of the aviation unit. Both men lived in the Richmond area: Cullen in Midlothian, and Bates in Quinton.

Cullen was Governor McAuliffe’s pilot for the past 3.5 years:

“I was close to both of those state troopers,” McAuliffe (D) said at a memorial service in Charlottesville on Sunday morning. “Jay Cullen had been flying me around for three-and-a-half years. Berke was part of my executive protection unit. He was part of my family. The man lived with me 24-7.”

McAuliffe said Bates had called him the day before his death about sending a care package to the governor’s son, a Marine stationed overseas.

“It just breaks our heart,” McAuliffe said. “It’s senseless.”

Virginia mourns.

Background:
– WTVR CBS-6: 2 troopers killed in chopper crash near Charlottesville
– WPVI TV-6: A timeline of the deadly weekend in Charlottesville, Va.