Thursday, December 8, 2022

Body of helicopter pilot recovered from wreckage, identified as Alexandria man

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 — The body of a pilot whose helicopter crashed into a Williamsburg townhome building shortly after takeoff was recovered from the heavily damaged structure Monday, federal officials said.

The pilot’s identity was confirmed Wednesday as Henry Schwarz, 85, of Alexandria, Virginia, by the Medical Examiner’s Office, according to Virginia State Police.

The helicopter was registered to Schwarz, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. A person who answered the phone at Schwarz’s home said he was not there and then hung up when contacted by a WYDaily reporter.

During a press conference Monday, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Doug Brazy said the helicopter’s registration number was N616HS. That number was registered in October 2004.

The incident

Brazy said the four-seat, single-engine Robinson R44 helicopter left the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport around 4:30 p.m. Sunday and flew about a mile before crashing into a 10-unit building in the Bristol Commons neighborhood.

Charley Rogers, a fixed-base operator at the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport, confirmed the helicopter took off from the airport at 4:26 p.m.

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

The crash killed Schwarz, the sole occupant of the helicopter, and a 91-year-old woman who lived in a first-floor townhouse in the complex, Virginia State Police and NTSB officials confirmed Monday.

No one else on the ground was injured, and all other residents of the townhome building were accounted for by Sunday evening, state police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya said.

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

Aftermath

The body of Bristol Commons resident Jean Lonchak Danylko was recovered Sunday. Her family issued a statement Monday that was read to the media by state police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya.

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 statement said. “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.”

The investigation

Brazy said NTSB officials and other investigators with the FAA, Robinson Helicopter Co. and Lycoming Engines, the maker of the helicopter’s 245-horsepower engine, were at the scene to determine the facts and circumstances of the crash.

Doug Brazy with the National Transportation Safety Board 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.


Sarah Fearing can be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com

Andrew Harris can be reached at andrew@localvoicemedia.com

Managing Editor Bryan DeVasher can be reached at bryan@localvoicemedia.com

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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