UVALDE, Texas —A newlywed couple died after the helicopter carrying them from their wedding crashed into the side of a hill in Uvalde, Texas, authorities said.
Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler, seniors at Sam Houston State University, married Saturday evening at the Byler family ranch before departing on the helicopter in front of family and friends. Authorities received a call reporting a possible downed aircraft around midnight Sunday, according to the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office.
The helicopter crashed into the side of a hill in northwest Uvalde County, about 100 miles west of San Antonio.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. But first, investigators have to recover the wreckage from the crash site, a task made difficult by the terrain and the remote location — roughly 4 to 5 miles from the nearest state road, NTSB air safety investigator Craig Hatch said.
“Getting back there with a trailer and truck and people to lift the helicopter is going to be difficult,” he said in a Monday news conference.
Because no roads with lights lead to the crash site, rescue crews waited until daybreak to reach it, said Rachel Kellner with the Texas Game Warden station. Kellner said she and her partner had to climb over a fence and walk up the side of a mountain to reach the helicopter. When they arrived, family members who had reached the site in a private helicopter were already there, she said.
“The difficulty is the terrain,” she said. “The helicopter is not stable at all.”
News of the deaths was first reported by the university’s independent student newspaper, The Houstonian.
“It is with deepest sadness that we announce the tragic passing of two Bearkats, Will Byler (Agriculture Engineering senior) and Bailee Ackerman Byler (Agricultural Communication senior) in a helicopter accident departing their wedding. We ask that you keep the Byler and Ackerman families in your thoughts and prayers,” the Houstonian posted on Facebook Sunday evening.
The groom’s grandfather, William Byler, told CNN affiliate KTRK that the aircraft’s pilot, Gerald Green Lawrence, also died in the crash on the family ranch.
Lawrence’s stepdaughter, Amilyn Willard, told the station he had been a captain in the army and fought in Vietnam.
“I spoke w/the step daughter of the pilot who says the flight path was routine for her stepdad and he had flown it many times,” station reporter Charly Edsitty tweeted. “The family is in shock over the accident and knew something was wrong when they didn’t hear from anyone hours later.”
Lawrence’s family said he had married in April and was expecting a second grandchild on Monday, CNN affiliate KSAT reported.