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State police ID troopers killed in helicopter crash near Charlottesville

RICHMOND, Va. -- Officials have released the names of the two Virginia State Police troopers killed after their helicopter crashed in Albemarle County near Charlottesville Saturday afternoon.

Susan Rowland, Virginia State Police Public Relations Coordinator, said the helicopter crashed into a wooded area near a home on Old Farm Road just before 5 p.m.

"The Bell 407 helicopter was assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville," Rowland said.

Officials said the pilot, 48-year-old Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, and 40-year-old Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, Quinton, died at the scene.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates

Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates

Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty said the troopers' deaths are a tremendous loss for the agency and the Commonwealth.

“Our state police and law enforcement family at-large are mourning this tragic outcome to an already challenging day,” Flaherty said. "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.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe released a statement following the tragedy:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jay and Berke, both of whom were our close friends and trusted members of our team. Jay has flown us across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years. Berke was devoted to our entire family as part of our Executive Protective Unit team for the past three years.

“This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police, and the entire commonwealth. Our hearts go out to their wives and children, and we stand by to support them during this difficult time. These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken.”

President Donald Trump also tweeted condolences to Virginia State Police.

Lt. Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in May 1994 as a member of the 90th Basic Session. He first joined the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit in 1999.

Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons.

Trooper-Pilot Bates would have turned 41 years old Sunday, Aug. 13. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in August 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session. He had just transferred to the Aviation Unit as a Trooper-Pilot in July.

Bates is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Sources told WTVR CBS 6 the chopper took off from the Chesterfield County Airport and was filming the protest in Charlottesville.

"The members and staff of the Virginia Sheriffs' Association express the deepest condolences to the families of those killed in Charlottesville today," Virginia Sheriffs' Association wrote in a statement "Our heartfelt sympathies go to the Virginia State Police and the families of the two troopers that lost their lives protecting others."

Officials said no one on the ground was injured.

Officials said there is no indication of foul play and that the cause of the crash remains under investigation by state police, the FAA and NTSB.

Stay with WTVR.com and watch CBS 6 News for updates on this important local story.