The couple were headed off on their honeymoon when tragedy struck. (Facebook: Bailee Ackerman)
A young US bride and groom have been killed in a helicopter crash on their wedding day, just hours after they were married in Texas.
- 24-year-old university students were married hours earlier
- Crash also killed pilot, a 79-year-old who served as a pilot in the Vietnam War
- Cause of the crash yet to be determined
William Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler, both 24, died over the weekend when their chopper crashed into a rocky hillside near Mr Byler’s family ranch in Uvalde.
Their pilot, 76-year-old Vietnam War veteran Gerald Douglas Lawrence, was also killed.
They departed from the couple’s wedding reception and were headed to a regional airport in San Antonio, where the newlyweds were to embark on their honeymoon.
But the aircraft came down between 5 and 10 minutes after take-off, US National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator Craig Hatch said.
Difficult job for investigators
The alarm was raised after no-one heard from the trio for several hours, however, investigators had to wait until daybreak to search the rocky countryside, local masthead My San Antonio reported.
The wreckage was discovered roughly 1.5 kilometres from the family ranch on Sunday morning, with debris strewn across the rugged terrain.
“There’s a risk it could fall down the side of the hill,” Mr Hatch said.
“We’ll recover the helicopter and then do a detailed inspection.
“But we have to figure out how to get it out right now.”
Mr Hatch said it was too early to pinpoint the cause of the crash, with findings from a preliminary investigation due to be handed down in two weeks.
The helicopter was owned by Mr Byler’s family, with Mr Lawrence working as a pilot for the Bylers for 20 years.
Mr Lawrence served as pilot in the Vietnam War, with his stepdaughter telling US broadcaster ABC 13 the experienced flyer was a captain in the army.
The couple were senior students at the Sam Houston State University, where Mr Byler was studying agricultural engineering and Mrs Ackerman Byler was completing an agricultural communications course.
Writers at the university’s newspaper, The Houstonian, posted a photo of the pair on Facebook on Monday, which has been shared more than 4,000 times.
Houstonian Facebook post: “It is with deepest sadness that we announce the tragic passing of two Bearkats Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler in a helicopter accident departing their wedding.”
Friends and family posted tributes to the victims on social media as news of the crash broke, with wedding guests speaking of their grief.
“I hope I find a love as true and wonderful as yours,” one wedding guest said of the couple on Instagram.
“I have peace in the fact that you left this earth so full of happiness and love.”