Both men killed in the helicopter crash connected to the violent Charlottesville rally have East Tennessee ties.
Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates were "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville" when their aircraft went down, a police statement read.
President Donald Trump also offered his condolences in a tweet to the "families and fellow officers of the Virginia state police who died today". "Lieutenant Cullen was a highly-respected professional aviator and Trooper-Pilot Bates was a welcome addition to the Aviation Unit, after a distinguished assignment as a special agent with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation".
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team", the statement said. "This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth". Jay Cullen was the pilot.
The two victims were the only people on board the helicopter and there were no injuries to anyone on the ground, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
Just before the incident, thousands of white nationalists, neo-Confederates and right-wing protesters, as well as groups that oppose them, clashed during the "Unite the Right" rally at the Emancipation Park in the downtown. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years.
"It was very apparent that the pilot was trying to gain control of the craft", Robby Noll, who was doing yard work in Albemarle County, told CBS6. He is survived by his wife and two children, a son and daughter.
"Our state police and law enforcement family at large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day", said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. One person was killed and at least two dozen were hurt.
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