Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Director of the Virginia State Police, sadly reports the death of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke Bates.

Lt. Cullen, 48, and Trooper Bates, 40, of the State Police Aviation Unit were assigned to monitor the civil protest involving a neo-nazi supremacy group and counter protesters in the Charlottesville area.

Their Bell 407 Jet Ranger helicopter had just taken off and was monitoring the governor’s motorcade as it passed near the area. They were obtaining video surveillance of the protest along with providing intelligence and tactical support for ground personnel in the protest area. While they were in a low level flight pattern, the helicopter experienced a mechanical difficulty.

An auto-rotation was executed which is standard procedure when there is a power loss in a rotary wing aircraft. The Bell Helicopter crash landed in a wooded area near a golf course at the end of a roadway. Bates and Cullen were likely killed on impact. The helicopter then burst into flames and was fully engulfed upon the arrival of first responders.

The crash investigation is being conducted by the Virginia State Police, the FAA and the NTSB.

H. Jay Cullen served the Virginia State Police for 23 years. Berke Bates served the State Police for 13 years. Both officers were assigned to the Aviation Unit. Bates had recently transferred to the unit from an assignment as a special agent with the VSP Criminal Investigation Division.

Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons. Bates is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke Bates are gone, but they will never be forgotten.

EOW: Saturday, August 12, 2017.

(Graphics courtesy Rose Borisow GrafX)