State and local officials, police honor fallen State Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates with bridge dedication

Fallen Virginia State Police Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates was honored once again for his service and sacrifice.

About 100 people — state and county officials, police, citizens and the Bates family — gathered to dedicate an Interstate 64 bridge overpass to Bates at a ceremony Friday afternoon. Bates died last year in a plane crash while responding to the Charlottesville riot.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Del. Chris Peace, R-Mechanicsville, and Col. Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent, spoke on behalf of Bates and his character.

The dedication comes from legislation passed by Sen. Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment, R-James City, and co-patron Peace in the 2018 General Assembly session, declaring the bridge on Route 612 (Airport Road) over Interstate 64 at mile marker 209 as “Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates Memorial Bridge.” The legislation received unanimous support from both the House and Senate.

Bates began his public service with the Florida Highway Patrol and then joined Virginia State Police in 2004. He worked in several different positions and departments within the state police, including with the motor unit as a motorcycle trooper, detail for the executive protective unit for Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations and a Trooper-Pilot for the aviation unit in 2017, according to Settle.

“Bates was a force of nature and he had an eagerness to live every moment and experience everything, in personal life and career,” Settle said.

The signs on the bridge and along the highway that will be placed in a few weeks will mark his legacy and ultimate sacrifice, according to Settle.

McAuliffe said Bates and his family are like his own family.

“I got close with my protection unit, including Bates,” McAuliffe said. “We traveled the world together and he was best friends with all five of my children.”

McAuliffe recalled being with Bates 24/7 and both not getting any sleep due to work — and Bates not minding it a bit.

McAuliffe said Aug. 12, 2017, was one of the worst days in American history, with hatred in Charlottesville from white supremacists and alt-right Neo-Nazis and the loss of two Virginia State Trooper-Pilots Berke Bates and Lt. Jay Cullen, who died in a plane crash on their way to the riot.

Del. Peace brought the Bates family a framed copy of the resolution declaring the bridge dedication.

“Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates is and was a blessing to this commonwealth,” Peace said. “We are so grateful for his service to his fellow Virginians.”

Bates’ wife Amanda said she can’t thank McAuliffe, Norment, Peace and the Virginia State Police enough for their constant support.

“I try to stay positive everyday,” Amanda Bates said. “Even though Berte isn’t here every day physically, he’s still here. My son looks like him more and more every day and it takes my breath away, and my daughter can be so quick witted it makes me think that he’s in the room.”

Bates said she doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the bridge chosen to honor him is on Airport Road, as their first home was on along the road.

Bates died a day before his 41st birthday and is survived by his wife, son Deacon and daughter Kylee.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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