State trooper, deputy killed in helicopter crash

Published 1:12 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Lee Russell of the THP Aviation Division and Marion County Sheriff’s Department Det. Matt Blansett were conducting an aerial mission in the Chattanooga area when the helicopter they were operating crashed in a wooded area of Marion County. We are saddened to report that both men lost their lives while serving the people of Tennessee on this mission.

“There are no words to describe the heartache and sadness our department is experiencing right now,” said Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long. “Sergeant Russell was an outstanding pilot but an even better person.  We mourn with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in the loss of Detective Matt Blansett. Both men were passionate about their jobs. This is a tremendous loss for the Tennessee law enforcement community. We ask for prayers of comfort for the families, our department, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department during this dark and difficult time.”

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“Our hearts are filled with sadness,” said THP Colonel Matt Perry. “As we navigate these difficult times, we ask that you please pray for their families, friends, and the men and women of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. These men are heroes, and we will never forget them.”

The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration.