College Sweethearts Who Died in Helicopter Crash After Wedding Remembered for Their 'Kind Hearts'

Friends and family are remembering newlyweds Will Byler and Bailee Ackerman Byler, the Texas couple who were tragically killed in a helicopter crash outside of Uvalde, Texas, just hours after their wedding on Saturday.

The pilot of the helicopter, Gerald Douglas Lawrence, 76, was also killed in the crash. Lawrence, who was a trusted family friend, was taking the bride and groom to a local airport, where they would then fly to their honeymoon location, according to Judge Steve Kennedy, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1 in Uvalde County, who spoke with local news outlets.

As authorities continue to investigate the cause of the crash, those who knew Will and Bailee, who were both seniors at Sam Houston State University, are paying tribute to the beloved couple.

David Eller, student body president at Sam Houston State University, released a moving statement on Facebook, saying, in part: “These two individuals made a huge impact and will always be remembered by their kind hearts and uplifting spirits. Will and Bailee spent their last moments on Earth surrounded by family and friends in what can easily be said as the best moments of their life.”

Will, 23, was studying agriculture engineering at the Huntsville, Texas-based university. He was also an accomplished member of the school’s rodeo team.

Bailee, 23, was studying agriculture communication and was a longtime member of the FFA (Future Farmers of America).

“Although they both have gained their wings, these two Bearkats will be remembered forever. As we move forward through this hard time it is important to remember that we should all live life like Will and Bailee. Be sure to always surround yourself with individuals who will always be there to build you up and make every moment the happiest moment of your life,” the statement continued.

Wagner, a Texas photographer who captured the couple’s engagement photos, says she heard the news on Sunday from a friend.

“I was upset, I had just seen them a couple of weeks ago,” Wagner tells PEOPLE of her reaction to the news. “They were two of the sweetest people — always smiling. Their love for one another truly shone through.”

The crash occurred around 1:57 a.m. local time on Sunday morning, a spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board tells PEOPLE.

In the weeks leading up to her wedding, Bailee shared a smiling photo of herself wearing a sash that read “BRIDE TO BE.”

“This whole ‘bride’ experience has been more than I have ever dreamed of and we still have so much left to do,” she wrote. “Thank you ALL for the memories. I am a lucky lady.”

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