Newlyweds die in copter crash after leaving wedding venue

Texan couple Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman had celebrated their nuptials at the Byler ranch before leaving in a helicopter.
Texan couple Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman had celebrated their nuptials at the Byler ranch before leaving in a helicopter.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/BAILEE ACKERMAN

Hours after saying "I do" last Saturday night, a young pair of newlyweds from Texas were killed when the helicopter they were in crashed a short distance from their wedding venue.

Mr Will Byler and Ms Bailee Ackerman, both 23 and final-year students at the Sam Houston State University, had married at Mr Byler's family ranch.

As they were transported from the venue later that night, their helicopter malfunctioned and crashed into a nearby hill, about 1.6km from the ranch, according to local media outlets.

Mr Eric Smith, a friend of the couple, posted about their deaths on Facebook on Sunday night. He wrote: "We celebrated their fairytale wedding and they were surrounded by their family and friends as they flew off in the family helicopter.

"Sadly they crashed into the side of a hill about a mile (1.6km) from the family ranch. The pilot, Jerry, was also on board. There were no survivors! Please keep everyone associated with this tragic event in your prayers.''

The location of the crash was near Uvalde, about 135km west of San Antonio.

In its report on Sunday, the university's student newspaper, the Houstonian, said that Mr Byler was studying agricultural engineering and belonged to the school's rodeo team, while Ms Ackerman was studying agricultural communication.

The helicopter pilot has since been identified as Mr Gerald Lawrence, 76.

Mr Lawrence's wife told Britain's Daily Mail on Monday that he was a private commercial pilot who worked for the helicopter business of the groom's father.

Tributes have poured in for the couple since Saturday's cruel twist of events.

Ms Ackerman's maid of honour, Ms Jessica Stilley, paid tribute to her best friend on Instagram: "I'm so sad to even be captioning these pictures with this, but you know I just have to share with everyone how beautiful you looked on your wedding day like I normally would have."

She added: "I'm so happy you married the man of your dreams and found the precious love you deserved with him."

Her Instagram profile has since been taken private.

Another friend of the couple, Ms Caroline Flippin, said on Instagram that their wedding night was "magical in every way" and "absolutely perfect".

She said: "I have peace in the fact that you left this earth so full of happiness and love... Our hearts hurt now, but we know this is not forever."

The US National Transportation Safety Board confirmed on Twitter that it was investigating the crash, which it said involved a Bell 206B helicopter.

Ng Huiwen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2018, with the headline 'Newlyweds die in copter crash after leaving wedding venue'. Print Edition | Subscribe