Two Virginia State Police officers who were assisting in the response to the violence surrounding a planned white nationalist rally in Charlottesville died Saturday afternoon after their helicopter crashed seven miles southwest of the city.
The officers were traveling in a Virginia State Police helicopter "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville," according to a spokesperson for the state police, where a confrontation between white nationalists and counter-protesters turned violent in city streets.
Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates died at the scene, said the state police.
The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and Virginia State Police are all investigating the crash, which took place in a wooded area. There were no injuries on the ground from the accident.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe released a statement on the deaths Saturday evening, saying that he and his wife, Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe knew Cullen and Bates personally from their time flying the pair across Virginia and serving on their "Executive Protective Unit," respectively.
"This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth," said McAuliffe, adding, "These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken."
Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent was quoted in the state police's release:
“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day."