Federal Aviation Administration

Williamsburg Helicopter Crash Kills Resident and Pilot

"It was like watching a movie ... It's one of those things you sit there looking at but don't believe it's going on"

A helicopter crashed into a home in Williamsburg, Virginia, on Sunday afternoon and killed a resident in her 90s and the pilot, officials say. 

Jean L. Danylko was found dead after the aircraft crashed into her condo, Virginia State Police said Monday morning. She was 91.

The body of the helicopter's pilot was found Monday, but investigators are still working to identify him. 

The helicopter plummeted into the 1100 block of Settlement Drive, about two miles northwest of historic downtown Williamsburg.

Investigators are still interviewing witnesses. Some said the engine of the helicopter sounded "funny" before it crashed into the 10-unit apartment building.

Witnesses said they heard a screech of metal and then a boom.

"It was like watching a movie ... It's one of those things you sit there looking at but don't believe it's going on," Richard Bridge told WAVY-TV

Donald Johnson told The Virginia Gazette he was home when the helicopter crashed into his building.

“It was 10 feet away from me. I was downstairs on the first floor when that thing hit, and I had never heard a noise like that in my life. I just walked out and looked and got out, I was afraid it would blow up," he told the paper.

The impact of the crash sparked a fire. Video footage shows flames and a huge plume of smoke.

Firefighters and police rushed to the scene about 4:35 p.m. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board also responded.

Officials then found the two sets of remains. 

The four-seat Robinson R44 helicopter is registered to a Henry E. Schwarz of Alexandria, Virginia, according to Federal Aviation Administration Records. A woman who answered the phone at Schwarz's home said he was not there.

There was only one person on board Sunday afternoon, NTSB Air Safety Investigator Doug Brazy said. The helicopter took off from the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport about a mile from the crash site. Investigators are still trying to find out the flight's destination. Brazy said they suspect the helicopter was flyingfor non-commercial purposes, although they're still going through records.

It wasn't immediately clear how many residents were displaced. City officials and the Red Cross were assisting them.

Williamsburg firefighters worked overnight to put out the fire. Photos from state police show the charred remains of the building, which is exposed down to the beams in some places.

The investigation is ongoing. 

State police Sgt. Michelle Anaya said Danylko's family is trying to cope with the loss of a woman known to many as "Grandma Jean."

Reading from a statement provided by the family, Anaya said Danylko was an avid reader and world traveler who lived alone, still drove and volunteered each week at a local senior center.

Danylko's family said she had worked as the secretary to Bruce Christensen when he was president of PBS. He and his family still sent Danylko Christmas presidents.

Danylko had one son and a large family of step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"Generous and thoughtful, Jean was well loved and admired by all who knew her," Anaya said, reading from the family's statement.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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