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Helicopter pilot’s body recovered from Bristol Commons wreckage; craft left Williamsburg airport Sunday

Firefighters and investigators remove debris from the site of a helicopter crash Monday, July 9, 2018, at the Bristol Commons townhouse complex. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)
Firefighters and investigators remove debris from the site of a helicopter crash Monday, July 9, 2018, at the Bristol Commons townhouse complex. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)

WILLIAMSBURG — Crews from the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have recovered the body of a helicopter pilot from the wreckage of a Williamsburg condo building.

The helicopter, which is registered to Henry Schwarz of Alexandria, Virginia, crashed into a Williamsburg condominium building Sunday.

Two are confirmed dead, both the pilot and a 91-year-old townhouse resident, police and NTSB officials said Monday.

During a news conference Monday, NTSB spokesman Doug Brazy gave the registration number for the helicopter as N616HS. That number is registered in October 2004.

Brazy added the NTSB believes the pilot was properly certified for flying helicopters and other aircraft.

The incident

Brazy said the four-seat, single-engine Robinson R-44 helicopter left the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, flew about a mile, then crashed.

The helicopter ended up “halfway between the front and back” of the 10-unit condo building, located in the 1100 block of Settlement Drive.

The crash caused a fire to break out in the condo building.

An aircraft with the registration number N616HS left the Wiliamsburg-Jamestown Airport at 4:26 p.m. Sunday, said Charley Rogers, the fixed-base operator at the airport.

Rodgers was unable to confirm the pilot’s identity as the family has not been notified, but said, “I knew the pilot and was familiar with the helicopter for many years.”

He added the helicopter was flying to northern Virginia.

Aftermath

On Sunday, first responders recovered the body of 91-year-old Jean Lonchak Danylko. She lived in a townhouse on the first floor of one of the building that was hit.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya reads a statement from the family of Jean Lonchak Danylko, who was killed when a helicopter crashed into a townhouse building in the Bristol Commons neighborhood in Williamsburg, on Monday, July 9, 2018. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya reads a statement from the family of Jean Lonchak Danylko, who was killed when a helicopter crashed into a townhouse building in the Bristol Commons neighborhood in Williamsburg, on Monday, July 9, 2018. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)

“Jean lived alone, very independently, and still drove and did weekly volunteer work at the Williamsburg Senior Center,” the family said in a statement read Monday afternoon by Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya. “She had one son, but a large family of step-grandchildren and great grandchildren and others who all called her ‘Grandma Jean.’ Generous and thoughtful, Jean was well-loved and respected by all who knew her.”

Danylko and the pilot are the only two people confirmed dead in connection with the crash. Anaya said all of the other residents of the building had been accounted for Sunday evening.

Danylko’s family has declined media interviews and wishes to grieve in private, Anaya said.

The investigation

Brazy said NTSB officials and other investigators with the FAA, Robinson helicopter and the helicopter’s engine manufacturer are at the scene to investigate the facts and circumstances of the crash.

Doug Brazy with the National Transportation Safety Administration speaks to the media on Monday, July 8, 2018, about a helicopter crash at the Bristol Common townhomes in Williamsburg. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)

The NTSB investigation aims to help prevent similar incidents in the future and covers information on the pilot, the cause of the crash and the aircraft itself, Brazy said.

As part of the investigation, debris collected by firefighters was laid out around the scene during early response, Brazy said.

At this time, the NTSB is gathering “perishable” evidence, such as marks left by the helicopter and other evidence that may change as time and weather move on, Brazy said.

Officials are also compiling witness statements and fuel records.

After gathering perishable evidence, pieces of the helicopter will be moved to a salvage facility, where various parts of the aircraft will be laid out.

A preliminary report on the crash will be released within 10 to 14 days, but a full investigation will take about 18 months, Brazy said.

The preliminary report will not include the cause of the crash, he said.

Thanks

Brazy thanked Virginia State Police and other Williamsburg-area police and fire agencies for their “exemplary work” at the scene of the crash.

He also offered condolences to the family and friends of those involved in the incident.

Officials are asking crash witnesses to come forward and contact witness@ntsb.gov or call the NTSB at 202-314-6218.

This story was published in partnership with our sister publication, WYDaily.

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