WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — An investigation is underway into what caused a helicopter to crash into a Williamsburg townhouse Sunday evening, killing the pilot and a 91-year-old Williamsburg woman.
Virginia State Police said the crashed happened at a home on Settlement Drive, off Ironbound Road, just before 5 p.m. State police identified the resident killed in the crash as 91-year-old Jean Lonchak Danylko.
The body of the pilot, who was onboard the R44 helicopter when it crashed, was recovered on Monday, according to Doug Brazy with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The pilot was later identified by state police as 85-year-old Henry E. Schwarz, of Alexandria.
Schwarz, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is the president of the Virginia Helicopter Association. An aviation source confirms to 10 On Your Side that Schwarz was piloting the helicopter when it crashed.
10 On Your Side spoke to an attorney in Northern Virginia, who said they are representing Schwarz’s estate. We reached out to his family, but they declined to comment.
Brazy said the helicopter had four seats and one engine. It took off from the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport around 4:30 p.m., but the destination is not known at this point.
A preliminary report on the crash is expected to be completed in 10-14 days, but Brazy said it could take 18 months to get a report on the cause of the crash.
“Right now we are working along with the FAA. We are getting information on aircraft that were taking off at certain times so that we can make a timeline accountable,” said Sgt. Michelle Anaya, of Virginia State Police.
Brazy did say people reported hearing a weird sounding engine: “We have started collecting a few witness statements that have mentioned interesting things about the engine sounding unusual or the engine sounding funny. We are not done reviewing those statements, and we don’t know what they mean.”
On Monday afternoon during the news conference, 10 On Your Side asked Brazy about the helicopter parts recovered so far.
He told said not all of the parts on the ground were helicopter parts, but the important parts will be taken to a staging area where they will be put together hopefully to find more answers.
Brazy also mentioned the different pilot certificates the pilot held, and “it appears he had the proper credentials to fly the helicopter,” Brazy said. “We will be looking at three focused areas in this investigation, the helicopter, the pilot, and the environmental circumstances. To that end we will be out here working to collect perishables, evidence, and witness statements.”
What is absolutely clear is that the fierce fire incinerated some areas of the townhouses.
Firefighters worked for several hours Sunday to extinguish the fire that was sparked following the crash.
Viewer video showed firefighters trying to douse the flames with heavy plumes of smoke rising from the wreckage.
The Red Cross said it was meeting with residents who were impacted by the crash. At least 10 units have been displaced and more are expected to be affected as heavy machinery moves in to clean up the wreckage.
Naval Air Force Atlantic Commander Dave Hecht tells 10 On Your Side the accident did not involve a military aircraft from Norfolk nor Oceana.
The College of William and Mary says via Twitter the crash happened in a residential area near Dillard Complex, but it is not part of their campus.
Neighbors tell 10 On Your Side they were in their apartments before 5 p.m. Sunday when they heard a helicopter flying very low.
Witnesses say they heard what sounded like the screech of metal — and then a loud boom.
Richard Bridge, who witnessed the aftermath, tells 10 On Your Side, “It was like watching a movie … yes. It’s one of those things you sit there looking at, but don’t believe it’s going on.”
WAVY Chopper 10 flew above the scene Sunday, showing the damaged townhouse. Hotspots forced firefighters to rotate in and out of the home, and prevented authorities from further investigating the crash Sunday night.
The early morning hours of Monday revealed more looks at destruction.