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2 State Police Helicopter Pilots Killed En Route To Fatal Virginia Car Crash

Virginia State Police Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed Saturday when the helicopter they were riding in crashed.

After violence erupted during Saturday's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., a helicopter carrying two state troopers en route to provide the city with backup crashed. Pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died at the scene.

In a statement, Virginia State Police said the helicopter was "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation" before falling into a wooded area, in Albemarle County, where Charlottesville is located.

That ongoing situation included the death of 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer when a car plowed into a group of anti-racist marchers.

James Alex Fields Jr. has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Heyer.

In a statement of condolence, the city of Charlottesville called Heyer's death a "senseless act of violence."

"While it will never make up for the loss of a member of our community, we will pursue charges against the driver of the vehicle that caused her death and are confident justice will prevail," the statement said.

Dozens were treated for injuries throughout the day, including 19 from the car crash.

State police, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the cause of the helicopter crash, with "no indication of foul play being a factor."

Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty shared his condolences in the department's statement.

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

Cullen of Midlothian, Va., "was a highly-respected professional aviator," Flaherty said.

Cullen, 48, graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in 1994 as a member of the 90th Basic Session. He joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999 and is survived by his wife and two sons.

Fellow trooper Bates of Quinton, Va., would have turned 41 years old on Sunday, police said.

Bates had just joined the aviation unit in July — "a welcome addition," Flaherty said, "after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation."

In 2004, he graduated from the state police academy as a member of the 107th Basic Session. Bates is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

The city of Charlottesville also expressed their sorrow over the deaths of Cullen and Bates.

"Virginia State Police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates were working with the Charlottesville Police and their brothers and sisters in the Virginia State Police to help ensure the safety of the many city residents and visitors who were in Charlottesville yesterday," the statement read. "These men gave their lives in the line of duty and our gratitude to them cannot be overstated."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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