Friday, December 9, 2022

Residents of Williamsburg community where helicopter crashed see need for stronger bonds

Onlookers take photographs and shoot video as firefighters battle a blaze Sunday, July 8, 2018, at the Bristol Commons apartment complex in Williamsburg. Witnesses said the fire was caused after a helicopter crashed and exploded. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)
Onlookers take photographs and shoot video as firefighters battle a blaze Sunday, July 8, 2018, at the Bristol Commons townhomes in Williamsburg. Witnesses said the fire was caused after a helicopter crashed and exploded. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)

WILLIAMSBURG — When a Robinson R44 helicopter slammed into a Bristol Commons townhouse building across the parking lot from her own Sunday afternoon, Margo Bridge said it sounded like a bomb.

The next thing she heard was her husband screaming for her to call 911 before he ran out the door to help.

“When I looked out the door, it was just flames,” Bridge said. “Neighbors were beating on the doors. Luckily they got everybody out. People were just running. I opened my front door and told everyone to come in, and they all just ran in.”

The people who rushed inside to safety were Bridge’s neighbors, but many were nearly strangers.

Sure, she had seen them drive by or walk out to their mailbox. She had said hello or nodded to some in passing, and she may have even known a couple of their names. But she didn’t really know them, not until they were sheltering in her home as a fire raged one building over.

In the confusion of the calamity, neighbors quickly realized they couldn’t account for who was safe and who was wounded or missing — and had no way to reach out to those they couldn’t put eyes on.

“We were just talking about how we can help the community and get to know each other better because we all kind of realized it’s important when you’re not sure where people are or what’s going on,” Bristol Commons resident Simon Zagata said.

A 10-unit condo building has been condemned after a helicopter crashed into it Sunday, July 8, 2018, in the Bristol Commons complex in Williamsburg. Two people died in the crash and resulting fire. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)
A 10-unit condo building has been condemned after a helicopter crashed into it Sunday, July 8, 2018, in the Bristol Commons complex in Williamsburg. Two people died in the crash and resulting fire. (WYDaily/Bryan DeVasher)

For many, it was a wake-up call.

“We’re going to get together as a community because it’s shameful that so many people didn’t know who was in the building and who to go get out,” Bridge said. “People walk around with cell phones in their faces and don’t know each other. Everyone needs to take the time to know their neighbors.”

The Bristol Commons community did get together Monday evening, a day after one of their own was killed in their townhouse by a falling helicopter.

Twenty or so residents gathered in the community building to brainstorm ideas on how to forge a tighter bond between neighbors. It’s a work in progress, Bridge said, but she said they’ll begin by rallying to help their neighbors who lost everything in the crash and subsequent blaze.

She and other neighbors said they’ll be trying to raise funds and supplies for those who have been displaced. Their efforts will include asking local businesses for donations and collecting gift cards and cash from individuals throughout town.

Bridge said she has already seen the Bristol Commons community draw closer together than ever before as they prepare to rebuild from tragedy.

“We’ve been out there together all day,” Bridge said with a smile. “There’s a strong bond.”

Bridge said she can be reached at 804-815-8992.


Andrew Harris can be reached at andrew@localvoicemedia.com

Related Articles

MORE FROM AUTHOR