No distress call in police helicopter crash that killed 2 in Charlottesville: NTSB

WASHINGTON – There was no distress call from the Virginia State Police helicopter that crashed during the response to violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend and killed two troopers, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The helicopter was helping law enforcement officers monitor the clashes between between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville when it crashed Saturday evening. Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, of Quinton, were killed in the crash.

The helicopter had been over downtown Charlottesville for less than 40 minutes when it left at 4:42 p.m. to provide support for a motorcade carrying Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the NTSB said Monday.

The last radar contact shows the chopper was flying at just 34 mph at an altitude of 2,300 feet, the NTSB said. There was no distress call from the helicopter before it crashed about seven miles southwest of the Charlottesville airport.

The helicopter descended into trees and caught fire, the NTSB reports.

“The NTSB and the Virginia State Police are interviewing witnesses who reported seeing the helicopter in flight shortly before the crash,” the NTSB said in a statement. The first 911 call reporting the crash was received at 4:44 p.m.

The helicopter was not equipped with a flight data recorder, nor was there a cockpit voice recorder. The chopper was not required to have either, the NTSB said.

The investigation is in its early stages and the entire investigation could take as along as 18 months, the NTSB said.

Cullen, 48, and Bates, 40, were were 64th and 65th Virginia State Police members to die in the line of duty since 1932. Funeral arrangements for both were still pending Monday evening, the state police said.

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