Federal investigators leave helicopter crash site, private company takes over


The National Transportation Safety Board has ended its on-site examination of the helicopter crash site at the Bristol Commons subdivision, and will release a preliminary report in the coming weeks.

According to Williamsburg Fire Chief Pat Dent, NTSB investigators left the scene late Tuesday afternoon to continue their investigation from the agency’s offices in Washington, D.C.

NTSB investigator Doug Brazy said at a press conference Monday that the report will not include the cause of the crash, but it will be a summary of the facts gathered thus far.

Dent said the Williamsburg Fire Department collaborated with NTSB and FAA officials to recover all available wreckage from the Robinson model R44 helicopter that crashed into the structure. That wreckage was transferred to an off-site location for continued inspection.

“In my 37-year career, I’ve experienced aircraft incidents and I’ve experienced fires of that magnitude or larger, but I’ve never experienced an aircraft accident into a dwelling structure,” said Dent. “All the credit goes to those initial (response) crews.”

Dent also confirmed that the 10-unit condominium building will not be salvageable, and says most of the valuables inside have been destroyed by heavy fire damage.

“Even though there were three units that were just impacted with water damage and smoke damage, the remainder of the building is heavily damaged from fire and structural integrity has been impacted,” he said.

Virginia State Police officers who had provided around-the-clock security have also been relieved, and the crash site is now being supervised by Belfor Property Restoration, a private disaster recovery and property restoration company. The company has security guards posted at the scene, and has put up fencing around the burned-out structure.

Residents living in the less-damaged units are being allowed in to recover valuables with Belfor escorts.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Michelle Anaya confirmed that the pilot of the helicopter was Henry E. Schwarz, 85, of Alexandria. His body was positively identified by the State Medical Examiner’s Office after being recovered Monday.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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