Helicopter Carrying Texas Newlyweds Crashed Into Hill

A helicopter that crashed just 90 minutes after a wedding and killed the newlyweds inside missed clearing a 1,450-foot hill, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report.

Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler left their wedding on Nov. 3, in Uvalde and crashed just 90 minutes later.

The couple, both students at Sam Houston State University, died. So did the pilot, Vietnam veteran Gerald Green Lawrence.

In the preliminary report, investigators said that Lawrence tried clearing the hill but crashed about 100 feet from the apex. The report does not list a cause for the crash. Clear skies and a temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded at the time.

The hill that the Bell 206B helicopter slammed into is located about five miles east of the Byler family ranch where the couple took off from, and about 71 miles west of San Antonio International Airport, where they were headed.

The crash prompted a search-and-rescue mission, but rescuers couldn’t locate the chopper until daybreak, hours after it crashed.

Investigators with the board previously said that Lawrence, 74, was “very experienced and highly qualified,” reported KENS 5. Hatch had logged about 24,000 hours flying.


‘Terrible Shape’

“The helicopter was in a terrible state, multiple pieces,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Rachel Kellner, a game warden who first responded to the scene, said, reported the San Antonio Express-News.

“We’re parents, too,” added game warden Dennis Gazaway. “And the circumstances were just overwhelming. This was the happiest day of their lives and they were in love.”

Family members were flown tot he site of the crash and spent about 30 minutes there. “They were mourning, certainly,” Gazaway said. “We tried to comfort them. I cannot fathom where the family would be emotionally at a time like that. I have two kids myself.”

According to the report, wreckage from the chopper was splayed along a path around 100 yards long leading up to the main portion. First responders attached ropes to the wreckage to keep it from rolling down the steep hillside.

The hillside prevented a detailed examination of the wreckage on site, investigators said. It was transported to a salvage facility for a detailed examination at a later date.