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Woman killed after helicopter crashes into condominiums in Williamsburg

Jean Lonchak Danylko, 91, died after a helicopter that took off from Williamsburg/James City County Airport went down.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va., (WVEC) -- A 91-year-old woman who died after a helicopter crashed into her condominium in Bristol Commons Sunday was an avid reader and world traveler, according to her relatives.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Michelle Anaya provided the information on behalf of Jean Lonchak Danylko's family at a news conference Monday.

Credit: Jean Darylko's Family
Jean Darylko

Doug Brazy with the National Transportation Safety Board also spoke at the news conference. He said that the pilot was the only person on board the four-seater helicopter when it went down in the 1100 block of Settlement Drive.

State police received the call about the crash shortly before 4:45 p.m. Sunday. Bristol Commons is near the campus of The College of William & Mary and is located across Ironbound Road from Dillard Field.

Brazy said the helicopter took off from Williamsburg/James City County Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration identified the aircraft as a Robinson R44 helicopter. The FAA lists the helicopter's owner as Henry Schwarz of Alexandria. Investigators did not indicate if the owner was the man who was piloting the aircraft.

Fire crews spent Sunday night into Monday putting out the fire and hot spots that came as a result of the crash.

"This helicopter came over but it was really low, and when it hit the townhome it caused a huge ball of fire and a big, huge explosion," said Suzanne Webber, who lives in Bristol Commons.

Neighbors said in the midst of all of the trauma, they are grateful for the first responders.

"Just want to say thanks to all of the emergency personnel who came out and kept everybody safe and also just praying for those who lost everything in the fire," said Chris Robertson.

The College of William & Mary sent out a Tweet shortly after the crash:

The FAA tweeted Sunday night that they and the NTSB would investigate to determine a probable cause of the crash.

Danylko's family said through Virginia State Police that the 91-year-old served as secretary to the president of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) for many years. She was active in the seniors community and at her church, Saint Olaf.

Margo Bridge’s home is across from where the explosion happened, and she says her husband ran to help those inside the destroyed apartment building.

“My husband and several of the guys ran over there and got the people out. The only one we didn’t get out, we didn’t know she was in there, they pounded on the door,” said Bridge.

Bride says she didn’t know Jean Danylko too well, but from now on the community will work harder to support and get to know one another. Right now Bridge says they need all the help they can get. The Bristol Commons neighborhood is accepting any and all donations, from clothes to furniture, water and canned goods. They’re also trying to get survivor Sybil Blackwell into a home after she lost everything.

Neighbor Mary Smith who lives next door says she’s helping Blackwell stay in the complex.

“My unit is available, so we’re trying to check with my landlord, and we’re trying to put them together so she knows she has a place to stay,” said Smith. Neighbors later spotted Blackwell’s terrier Princeton alive and well, after spending the night in the gutted apartment complex. For Blackwell the reunion changes everything, because she has her best friend back.

PHOTOS: One dead after helicopter crashes into condos in Williamsburg

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