State trooper, sheriff’s deputy killed in helicopter crash, authorities say

The interstate roadways were shut down following the incident, but they have since reopened, according to officials.
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 12:41 PM PDT
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MARION COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT/Gray News) - A helicopter crash in Tennessee resulted in the deaths of a sheriff’s deputy and a state trooper, according to authorities.

The helicopter crash occurred Tuesday afternoon in Marion County, temporarily shutting down an interstate highway, WVLT reported.

Tennessee Highway Patrol officials confirmed the deaths of one of their troopers and a deputy with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in a press conference Tuesday night.

“While the investigation is ongoing, please give the families their privacies,” a THP spokesperson said. “Today is a very tragic day for law enforcement.”

Officials identified the victims in the crash as THP Sergeant Lee Russell and MCSO Detective Matt Blansett.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Bell 206 helicopter struck a power line and crashed in a wooded area on Aetna Mountain near Whiteside, Tennessee, around 4:00 p.m. on Aug. 23.

Dan Hostetler witnessed the incident as he was heading back to Chattanooga on the interstate. He said he saw a black helicopter flying in circles, describing it as moving “erratically.”

Hostetler said the helicopter then “dipped” and “waggled” before it hit a power line that crossed over the highway. He said the power line started gliding down towards him as he was on the highway and he was afraid it would land on him.

“I slammed on the brakes and stopped about two car lengths from the line,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation confirmed to WVLT that the helicopter struck the power lines and caused them to fall across the roadway, resulting in its temporary closure.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash.