A Virginia State Police helicopter crashed near Charlottesville on Saturday evening, killing two people on board.
Police confirmed that the pilot, 48-year-old Lieutenant H Jay Cullen, and the passenger, 40-year-old Trooper Pilot Berke MM Bates died at the scene.
Emergency crews were at the scene of the downed aircraft in Old Farm Road around 4.50pm, close to the Birdwood Golf Course, according to WSET.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation at this time by state police and the National Transpiration Safety Board. Foul play is not suspected to be a factor.
A statement released by Virginia State Police reads: ‘Shortly before 5pm today (August 12), a helicopter crashed into a wooded area near a residence on Old Farm Road. There are two confirmed fatalities.
‘No one on the ground was injured. The cause of the crash remains under investigation at this time. State police are on scene with Albemarle County police and fire units.’
President Donald Trump sent out a tweet around 6.50pm about the event, stating: ‘Deepest condolences to the families & fellow officers of the VA State Police who died today. You’re all among the best this nation produces.’
The tweet came hours after he failed to name or condemn the white supremacists or alt-right groups at the center of violent protests in Charlottesville earlier on Saturday that converged en masse to protest the removal of a statue of a Confederate general.
Lieutenant Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in May 1994 and joined the VSP Aviation Unit in 1999. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Trooper-Pilot Burkes graduated from the VSP Academy in August 2004 and had just transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot in July. His 41st birthday would have been on Sunday.
A 10-second video posted to Twitter and filmed on a golf course shows thick black smoke rising from behind the trees as the Bell 407 helicopter burst into flames.
Emma Eisner, who filmed the clip, said: ‘To everyone asking about the helicopter crash: it basically started stalling, spiraled down to the ground & lost control.’
Neighbors told The Daily Progress that the helicopter was flying low near homes before it crashed in the woods.
It came after a white nationalist rally rocked Charlottesville and a car drove into a crowd of anti-fascist counter protesters.
The car accelerated towards and plowed into a crowd of people protesting at the rally Saturday, killing one and injuring 19.
The driver has been named as 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr of Maumee, Ohio, was arrested on Saturday and is being held at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder, according to the jail’s superintendent Martin Kumer.
Screams rang out as the silver Dodge Charger careened into anti-fascist demonstrators, throwing bodies into the air, before reversing at high speed.
Officials told the Associated Press the deaths have been linked to the violent rally earlier in the day.
It was not immediately clear how the crash was connected to the rally.
A police helicopter had been seen earlier in the day circling over the counter-demonstrations in Charlottesville.
There is speculation the downed aircraft was monitoring the situation in the city at the time of the crash.