UVALDE, Texas (KXAN) — The National Transportation and Safety Board is investigating a fatal helicopter crash involving newlyweds on Sunday near Uvalde, Texas.
The crash, involving a Bell 206B, which is a two-bladed, two-engined helicopter, happened near Chalk Bluff Park near Highway 55 at around midnight.
Family friends say it was just two hours after saying “I do” that Will Byler and his new bride Bailee Ackerman boarded the helicopter and headed for their honeymoon. In a Facebook post, one friend says the couple got into a family helicopter and crashed into a hill.
“We’re talking 10 to 20 miles maybe, straight line distance from their ranch to the hillside it’s on,” said NTSB Air Safety Investigator Craig Hatch.
First responders went searching for the helicopter Saturday night with no luck.
“The terrain is terrible, it’s the side of a mountain and it was pitch dark, there’s no light, no anything. They went very close to the site that it ended up being, but we needed daylight,” said Texas Game Warden Rachel Kellner.
When the sun came up Sunday morning, crews found debris from the helicopter spread at least 100 yards across the rough terrain. Federal investigators are mapping the scene.
“At this point, the plan is really to recover the helicopter and do a detailed inspection at a later time depending onw hen it can be recovered,” said Hatch.
The Houstonian, the student newspaper at Sam Houston State University, reported that the victims are university students. Their Facebook post said they are both seniors at the school.
Investigators say the pilot was experienced, clocking at least 24,000 hours behind the yoke. Our sister station KPRC spoke to the pilot’s daughter. She says her father had worked for the Bylers for 16 years.
“We love them and they know that my father loved them and he had the utmost loyalty to the Bylers,” said the pilot’s daughter Devon Lawrence. “Although it’s such a tragic day for both of our families, they passed on a loving date and everybody was there to cherish their moment and love them and be together.”
Lawrence says her father had been a pilot for nearly 50 years and always made sure his planes were properly serviced.
The National Transportation Safety Board says it could take weeks before determining what caused the crash.