UVALDE, TEXAS — A newlywed couple departing from their wedding ceremony aboard a helicopter died Sunday morning when the aircraft crashed in Uvalde, according to reports.
The Houstonian newspaper, the student publication for Sam Houston State University, confirmed the deaths. The newlyweds — Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler, both seniors at the school — along with their pilot perished in the crash.
“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,” The Houstonian wrote on Facebook. “We ask that you keep the Byler and Ackerman families in your thoughts and prayers.”
On Monday, the Uvalde County justice of the peace identified the dead pilot as Gerald Douglas Lawrence. The 76-year-old pilot was taking the two newlyweds, both 24, to a local airport en route to their honeymoon, the judge said.
Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office officials said they received a call from an aviation monitoring center about a possible downed aircraft in northwest Uvalde at around midnight. Multiple emergency agencies — Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, game wardens, Border Patrol agents, the Uvalde Volunteer Fire Department and Uvalde Emergency Medical Services — descended to the area of Chalk Bluff Park off of Highway 55 to search for the wreckage.
The crashed helicopter was finally located at around daybreak, according to the sheriff’s office. Some ten members of the San Antonio Fire Department were deployed to assist Federal Aviation Administration with the investigation before returning to San Antonio Sunday night, according to reports.
In a Sunday morning tweet, the National Transportation and Safety Board reported the helicopter that crashed is a Bell 206B. No further details — including what may have caused the chopper to crash — were available, with NTSB officials saying they wouldn’t release further information until Monday.
Uvalde is just over 160 miles southwest of Austin and some 85 miles west of San Antonio.