VSP identifies troopers killed in helicopter crash near Charlottesville

Trooper Jay Cullen (left) Trooper Berke M. M. Bates (right) (Photos courtesy of the Virginia State Police Facebook page)

ALBERMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Sate Police have identified the two troopers killed in a helicopter crash on Saturday.

(Photo courtesy of NBC29)

VSP says the crash happened shortly after 5 p.m. in a wooden area near a home on Old Farm Road.

The two troopers have been identified as Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40. They both died at the scene.

The crew was in the area assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. There is no indication of foul play being a factor in the crash.

Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorthy McAuliffe released the following statement about the deaths:

“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.”

Virginia State Police released more information about both troopers on Monday:

Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen (Photo: Virginia State Police)

Lieutenant Cullen was born in Winchester County, New York, and graduated from Germantown High School in Memphis, Tenn., in 1987. Before joining Virginia State Police in 1993, he worked as a flight instructor in Front Royal and Winchester He held a bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Cullen graduated from the Virginia State Police Training Academy as a member of the 90th Basic Session on May 13, 1994. His first patrol assignment upon graduation was in Fairfax. In 1999, he joined the Aviation Unit as a trooper-pilot at the Virginia State Police Aviation Base in Manassas and has been assigned to Aviation Unit ever since. The following year he was transferred to the Lynchburg Aviation Base, where in 2003, he achieved the rank of senior trooper. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2005 and assumed his new role at the Virginia State Police Aviation Base in Chesterfield County.

In 2007, Lieutenant Cullen was named acting first sergeant at the Chesterfield base. He was promoted to the rank of first sergeant in 2012 and then became acting lieutenant at the base that December.

Cullen is a 2014 graduate of the National Criminal Justice Command College at the University of Virginia. In February 2017, he attained the rank of lieutenant and became commander of the Aviation Unit.

Lieutenant Cullen is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 17 and 15.


Trooper-Pilot Bates was born in Manassas and graduated from Brentsville District Middle-Senior High School in Nokesville, Virginia, in 1994. He served as a trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol from 1998 until he joined the Virginia State Police in 2004. He graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy on August 27, 2004 as a member of the 107th Basic Session.

Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates (Photo: Virginia State Police)

Bates’ first assignment was in Virginia State Police Richmond Division’s Area 8 Office, which encompasses the City of Richmond and Henrico County. Less than a year later, he became a member of the office’s Motors Unit, serving as a motorcycle trooper until 2013. Bates joined the governor’s protection detail, known as the State Police Executive Protective Unit, in October 2013 and served with the unit for three years before accepting a promotion to special agent with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Richmond Field Office General Investigations Section. In July 2017, he became a trooper-pilot with the Virginia State Police Aviation Unit.

Trooper Bates is survived by his wife and twin 12-year-old son and daughter.

Stay on WAVY.com for developments in this story.