MIDLOTHIAN, Va. — Families and the law enforcement community are grieving after two Virginia State Police troopers were killed in a fiery helicopter crash in Albermarle County, Saturday afternoon.
The troopers who were killed in the crash were identified as Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, from Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates from New Kent.
The Virginia State Police helicopter was flying over the Charlottesville-area assisting with public safety at the “Unite the Right” rally.
“Everybody that goes into the line of work knows this might happen, but of course you hope it never will,” said Henrico County Deputy Sheriff Miles Turner.
Turner first met Lt. Cullen during his time at Virginia State Police more than a decade ago. In 2009, Turner asked Cullen to speak to his Criminal Justice class about policing and aviation at a high school in Caroline County.
“He was a huge hit, he related to the kids, and they asked all kinds of questions,” Turner remembered. “He had a very good sense of humor and was a great guy to talk to.”
Turner described Cullen as an experienced, “cautious” pilot who also instructed flying lessons.
Lt. Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in May 1994 as a member of the 90th Basic Session. He first joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999.
Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons.
Craig Bates, Bates’ brother, tweeted, “Some knew him as Trooper Berke Bates. To me, he was my younger brother who would have been 41 on Sunday. I miss you, Berke.”
Trooper-Pilot Bates graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. He had just transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot in July.
Bates is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
Sources familiar with the operation said state police were filming the Charlottesville protests from the helicopter.
The helicopter crash is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.
“Many times police deaths you can look at it and see what they could have done differently,” Turner said. “I don’t know, if anything, these guys could’ve done different.”
Virginia State Police indicated foul play was not suspected in the crash.