Troopers killed in Charlottesville helicopter crash had close ties to East Tennessee

These undated photo provided by the Virginia State Police show Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. The two were killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when the helicopter they were piloting crashed while assisting public safety resources during clashes at a nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. (Virginia State Police via AP)

The two Virginia State Troopers who died in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville, Va., during a violent protest near the University of Virginia on Saturday had close ties to East Tennessee, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported.

Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Va., was piloting a Bell 407 helicopter over Charlottesville just before 5 p.m. on Saturday when the helicopter crashed, killing Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, Va.

Lt. Cullen's father, Henry, who lives in Loudon, Tenn., said his son graduated from Germantown High School near Memphis and had a lifelong passion for flying.

"Jay was the greatest son a family could ask for," Henry Cullen said. "He loved his two boys, and he loved his wife. He was just here a week ago, playing on the lake. He would come down and play on the lake and have fun with his boys. He loved his boys and his wife more than anything."

Bates graduated from the University of Tennessee class of 1998, where he was a Southern College Hockey Association all-star goalie. After graduation, Bates worked as a state trooper in Florida before moving to Virginia and joining the Virginia State Police in 2004.

His brother, Craig Bates, said the trooper also was passionate about aviation.

"He had always wanted to fly. That was his big thing," he said. "He was one of the kids in 1986, when 'Top Gun' came out, who loved the F-14, and so, on his own, he had paid for and gotten his fixed-wing license last year, and that was what he had really wanted to do."

"The call that I had with him, when he called to let me know that he got it, was the most excited that I had heard him since his twins were born," he added.

Trooper Bates leaves behind a wife and two children.