State trooper, deputy identified in East Tennessee helicopter crash

Posted at 9:53 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 11:49:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper and Marion County deputy were killed in a helicopter crash on Tuesday, according to state officials.

THP Sergeant Lee Russell and Marion County Sheriff’s Department Detective Matt Blansett died in the crash.

“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.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which happened in the Whiteside area in East Tennessee.

Whiteside is an unincorporated part of Marion County. FAA officials said their Bell 206 helicopter struck a power line and crashed in a wooded area on Aetna Mountain around 4 p.m. Eastern.

“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.”

Sgt. Russell will be laid to rest on August 27 in McKenzie, Tennessee.