The cause of the fatal Virginia State Patrol helicopter crash in Charlottesville, Virginia has not yet been determined, although investigators have been able to rule out a few possibilities as they examine the wreckage.

White supremacist group demonstrations

The helicopter was on a mission to document events on the ground surrounding the Aug. 12 demonstrations of white supremacist groups and the counter demonstrations of those who opposed them. The pilot and the observer, both Virginia State Patrol officers, were killed in the accident. 

In a preliminary report released yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said there was no evidence that the aircraft was struck by another aircraft, animal or object.

Spinning nose down

Just what did cause the helicopter’s steep descent and crash remains a mystery. Radar data indicates that just prior to the accident the helicopter was flying north-northwest at an altitude of approximately 2,200 feet above mean sea level before it began to turn to the right and descend rapidly. Security camera video shows the helicopter spinning in a nose down pitch attitude before it descended into trees.

Investigators did not have an easy time collecting the helicopter’s parts, which were scattered along a debris field that was several hundred feet long. The fuselage came to rest on the ground, the tail rotor was located in a tree, and some components of the helicopter were recovered from the roof of a nearby house. All of the main components were recovered, but most were damaged by crash forces and a post-impact fire, according to the NTSB.

The report is a preliminary one, summarizing factual information collected at this early stage of the investigation.

 The preliminary report can be viewed and downloaded at