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Virginia State Police Mourn The Loss Of Aviation Personnel

Aircraft Was Assisting Public Safety Resources During Situation In Charlottesville, VA

Virginia State Police and the NTSB are investigating the cause of the fatal helicopter accident in Albemarle County that claimed the lives of two state police pilots. The FAA is also investigating the incident.

At 4:51 p.m., Saturday (Aug. 12), a Virginia State Police Bell 407 helicopter crashed into a wooded area near a residence on Old Farm Road in Albemarle County. The helicopter was assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville, VA. The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Va., and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va., died at the scene.

Lt. Cullen was the Aviation Unit Commander, a position he was promoted to in February of this year. He first joined the Aviation Unit in 1999. Trooper-Pilot Bates had just transferred to the Aviation Unit in July, from the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The Washington Post reports that, according to NTSB investigators, there was no distress call made before the aircraft went down.

Formally established Jan. 1, 1984, the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit’s primary mission is to provide aircraft for search, rescue, law enforcement and medical evacuation missions through its three Aviation Bases located in Chesterfield County, Lynchburg and Abingdon. The unit is staffed by Trooper-Pilots, all of whom are sworn members of the Department, are qualified “Police Pilots,” and have private pilots’ licenses. The Trooper-Pilots are trained in-house on VSP aircraft, which include four Bell 407 helicopters, two American Eurocopter EC145 helicopters, and three Cessna fixed-wing aircraft. The unit also employs three full-time mechanics for its fleet and exceeds minimum FAA maintenance requirements. In 2015, the Aviation Unit totaled 2,784 flight hours and assisted with 26 criminal arrests, 36 missing persons located and three escapee apprehensions. The unit fielded 3,008 flight requests in 2015.

Med-Flight/Medevac – operates from the Chesterfield and Abingdon bases with operation costs shared with our healthcare partners: VCU Medical Center, Chesterfield County Fire and EMS, Wellmont Health Systems, Colonial Heights Fire and Rescue, Henrico County Fire and Rescue, and City of Bristol, Virginia Police. In 2015, a total of 844 patients were flown by Med-Flight helicopters out of the two bases.

(Source: Virginia State Police news release and as cited. Image from VA State Police Facebook page)



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