The pilot of a helicopter that crashed and killed a newlywed couple in Texas on Sunday was “very experienced,” transportation officials revealed Monday.
Gerald Green Lawrence was identified as the pilot of the Bell 206B helicopter that crashed early Sunday near Uvalde, leaving 24-year-old newlyweds Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler dead.
TEXAS NEWLYWED COUPLE KILLED IN HELICOPTER CRASH LESS THAN 2 HOURS AFTER GETTING MARRIED
The helicopter was leaving the Bylers’ “fairytale” wedding en route to San Antonio, where they were scheduled to take a flight to their honeymoon destination.
Lawrence, according to an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), was 76 years old and an experienced pilot with 24,000 hours of flying under his belt.
An official in Uvalde County told the San Antonio Express-News that Lawrence served as a pilot during the Vietnam War, and worked as a pilot for the family for years.
“It’s just really sad,” the official said. “Tragic.”
The chopper, reportedly owned by Byler’s father, took off just hours after the couple got married at a ranch on Saturday night. It crashed into a rocky hillside roughly five to 10 minutes after takeoff, officials said.
“It was not a great big helicopter,” the county official told the news outlet. “It was in pieces when I saw it up on the top of the hill. It was really hard to get to.”
A friend of the couple, Madi Wagner, wrote on Facebook that the couple “spent their last day on this earth celebrating with their most cherished loved ones- I believe it truly was the best day of their lives.”
The NTSB said a preliminary report on the crash will be released in two weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.