New details: Deadly Virginia State Police helicopter crash

Investigation expected to take 12 to 18 months

Courtesy : Emma Eisner

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va – The National Transportation Safety Board has released new details of the helicopter crash that killed two Virginia State Police officers Saturday afternoon.

The agency says the VSP chopper was one of several providing continuous video of what was happening on the ground during the “Unite the Right“ rally in Charlottesville.

The chopper departed Charlottesville airport at 3:54p.m. and was over the downtown area at 4:04 p.m.  It remained there until 4:42 p.m., when it departed the area to provide support for a motorcade carrying Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The first 911 call reporting the crash was received at 4:44 p.m.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued the following new release Monday afternoon:

The purpose of the flight was to provide a continuous video feed of activities on the ground, which was accomplished with multiple helicopters.

The accident helicopter (N31A), was a Bell 407, manufactured in 2000.  It departed Charlottesville airport at 3:54 pm ET and was over the downtown area at 4:04 pm and engaged in mission-related activities there until 4:42, at which time it departed the area to provide support for a motorcade carrying Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The last observed radar coverage indicates that the accident helicopter was traveling north/northeast at about 30 knots (34 mph) at an altitude of 2,300 feet. The first 911 call reporting the crash was received at 4:44 pm.  The crash site is about 7 miles southwest of the Charlottesville airport.

The helicopter’s vertical flight path was about 45 degrees when it descended into trees.  The main wreckage came to rest about 100 yards from where the aft portion of the tail boom became lodged in a tree.

There was a post-crash fire. 

The was no distress call from the accident helicopter.

The NTSB and the Virginia State Police are interviewing witnesses who reported seeing the helicopter in flight shortly before the crash. 

The helicopter was not equipped with either a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, nor was it required to be.

Investigators are working with local authorities today to recover the helicopter wreckage to a secure location where additional examination and documentation can be conducted.

The NTSB has been working closely with the Virginia State Police and appreciates its efforts to support the NTSB investigation. 

A preliminary report detailing the facts and circumstances of the crash that have been developed in this early stage of the investigation will be available on the NTSB website within 2-3 weeks. 

The entire investigation is expected to last 12-18 months.

All inquiries related to this accident investigation should be directed to NTSB Media Relations.