Father of trooper killed in helicopter crash talks about son’s passion for flying, family

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Photo: Virginia State Police/CNN Wire

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One of the Virginia State Police troopers killed in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville during the clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters has Mid-South ties.

Lt. Jay Cullen graduated from Germantown High School in 1987.

As much of the country watched in horror learning two Virginia State Police troopers died in a helicopter crash, so did one of the men’s fathers.

“I was watching the news that night, Saturday night, and I knew he was working the mess in Charlottesville, and on the news came Virginia State Police helicopter crashed, and I knew from then on,” said Henry Cullen.

Henry Cullen says his son, Lt. Jay Cullen, had wanted to be a pilot since he was a teenager.

“That was his passion. He had one thing in his mind: He wanted to fly.”

He says he went straight to Embry Riddle Aeronautical School after graduating from Germantown High School, where he played band and left an impression on his classmates.

He then joined Virginia State Police, where he served with honor for the next two decades and became the commander of the Aviation Unit.

“Next to his family, he was doing the second greatest thing he loved to do.”

He leaves behind a wife and two teenage sons.

“They just adored their dad. He was the greatest father to them.”

Henry says they had just visited him a week or so ago at their house south of Knoxville. He says they had an incredible trip, boating on the lake and doing water sports.

“They enjoyed it. In fact, I walked down yesterday and sat at the lake and I could still picture them coming in with the boat.”

He says these past few days have been devastating but knows Jay made the most out of his life.

“You know, very few people get to live their dream, but I was so proud of him.”

He says he’ll always remember his son as a great husband, father and devoted Virginia state trooper.

He says he also found out the second pilot who died in the crash, Trooper Berke Bates, lived right up the street from him. He said he’s devastated by both of their deaths.