Chopper crash near Charlottesville leaves two officers with East Tennessee ties dead

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Virginia state police said one of their agency's helicopters crashed Saturday outside Charlottesville, killing two troopers.

Police said the helicopter was assisting law enforcement officers monitor the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Police said Lt. H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian and Trooper-Pilot Burke M.M. Bates of Quinton were killed in the crash. Lt. Cullen is the son of Loudon County Commissioner Henry Cullen.

Local 8 News Trooper spoke with his Bates' brother, Craig, who said Bates would've celebrated his 41st birthday Sunday.

Craig said he and Bates played hockey for the University of Tennessee, and his parents still live in Knoxville.

"We were such a, and still are a tight-knit family," said Craig.

Craig said law enforcement and aviation were the two biggest things in Bates' life, outside of family and that he had found his dream job in Virginia. He said his entire family was always proud of him, and that Bates was destined to fly, even becoming a FAA certified 6 wing pilot in the past few months.

"Beyond the birth of his twin son and daughter, that was probably the most excited I've ever heard him," said Craig.

Governor Bill Haslam issued a statement on the deaths of the officers and the victims of the car crash in Charlottesville, which occurred earlier on Saturday.

Haslam said, "Crissy and I send our sympathy and prayers to the families of the victims in Charlottesville. Senseless violence and hatred are not who we are as Americans and should be condemned by everyone. We particularly want to express our sadness to the Tennessee families of the two Virginia troopers who lost their lives."

No one on the ground was injured.

The crash happened just a few hours after a car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting against the white nationalist rally. One person was killed, and at least two dozen were hurt.

The cause of the chopper crash remains under investigation at this time by state police, the FAA and NTSB. There is no indication of foul play being a factor in the crash.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” said Colonel 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. Their deaths are a tremendous loss to our agency and the Commonwealth.”

Lieutenant 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. Lieutenant Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons.

Trooper-Pilot Bates would have turned 41 years old Sunday, Aug. 13. He 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. Trooper-Pilot Bates is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Lieutenant Pilot H. Jay Cullen
Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates