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Days after helicopter crash, community continues support for people affected

jojacobs@vagazette.com

The smoke has cleared and emergency vehicles have left Bristol Commons, but the work of supporting those displaced by the helicopter crash that shook the neighborhood continues.

A four-seat Robinson model R44 helicopter crashed into condominiums Sunday afternoon in the Bristol Commons neighborhood in Williamsburg. The crash killed 91-year-old resident Jean Lonchak Danylko and helicopter pilot Henry Schwarz, 85, of Alexandria.

In the crash’s aftermath, neighbors and local humanitarian groups sprang into action to provide relief to people displaced by the crash.

Neighbors came together the day after the crash to organize a donation collection.

People interested in dropping off donations to help residents affected by the crash can do so 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Bristol Commons clubhouse. The displaced residents are in need of clothes, small pieces of furniture, electronics, gift cards and monetary donations, resident and organizer Colleen Ziemba wrote in an email.

There’s also an ongoing GoFundMe campaign to provide financial support to residents affected by the crash. The campaign has exceeded its goal of $1,000 and had garnered $1,475 as of Friday afternoon.

The crash immediately affected 10 households. The occupants of eight affected units found shelter with friends and families, while the Red Cross provided shelter to the occupants of the remaining two units Monday. As of late Thursday afternoon, no one affected by the crash was utilizing shelter assistance from the agency, Red Cross spokesman Jonathan McNamara said.

The Red Cross had picked up at least one community helper by Monday. Courtney Kreicar, community manager of The Pointe at New Town, connected with the Red Cross to offer units at her apartment complex as temporary accommodations for people displaced by the crash.

Kreicar was driven to offer her services in part because her brother-in-law is a Bristol Commons resident, though he wasn’t displaced.

“If he happened to be one of those displaced, I would have wanted someone to reach out to him if they were able to offer any form of assistance,” she wrote in an email.

No one has contacted her seeking help as of Thursday afternoon, though she said the Red Cross made her aware that as time goes on people may need temporary housing, should their initial accommodations fall through.

Residents affected by the crash can also turn to the Williamsburg Department of Human Services.

So far, the agency hasn’t assisted anyone affected by the crash. One couple contacted the agency to inquire about visiting their home to look for possessions, but were referred to the city fire department, outreach and crisis coordinator Roy Gerardi said.

The agency’s on-call social worker went to the scene and spoke with some people affected by the crash Sunday, though none pursued immediate assistance. The agency will follow up with those individuals in the coming days, Gerardi said.

At this point, it’s still unclear exactly how many people have been affected by the crash or will require assistance. Some people who currently are staying with family may find themselves in need of new temporary housing in the near future, and the human services department will be on standby to assist such cases. Other people may come to realize they need emotional support services as time goes on, Gerardi said.

More information

Donation drive: Donations of clothing, gift cards, small furniture, electronics and money will be accepted 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Bristol Commons clubhouse. For more information call 804-815-8992. Bristol Commons clubhouse is located at 250 Bristol Commons.

To donate money to people affected by the crash, visit gofundme.com/bristol-commons-neighbor-relief.

To contact the Red Cross, call 757-253-0228.

To contact Williamsburg Department of Human Services, call 757-220-6161.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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