HOUSTON – She said her father had been a pilot for almost 50 years.
Lawrence De Samaniego said 76-year-old Gerald Douglas Lawrence worked for the groom’s family company, W.T. Byler, for 16 years.
Lawrence was the pilot in the crash that killed him and two Texas newlyweds on Sunday.
The trio took off a couple of hours after Will and Bailee Byler exchanged vows.
Minutes after takeoff, the helicopter went down in Uvalde, killing everyone on board in the early-morning hours on Sunday.
The wedding was on the Byler family ranch in Uvalde, just outside San Antonio.
Authorities located the crashed helicopter around daybreak, according to reports.
"My father was very close to everybody at W.T. Byler. That included the Bylers themselves. He attended any function that was requested of him,” said Lawrence De Samaniego. “They asked him if he would do the honor of escorting the bride and groom to their honeymoon destination, and it was his pure honor to be able to be in that moment with that family and share that experience.”
She said her father’s wife was at the wedding and told her the news.
“My family was in such disbelief that we almost didn’t think that it was real, that somebody had made a mistake and that we were going to get a call from him at any moment,” said Lawrence De Samaniego.
She said her father was very particular when it came to safety and flying.
“He was vigilant in making sure all of his certifications and all of his physicals were up-to-date. He made sure every time before he entered a helicopter that it had been serviced and it was not up for servicing. He kept logs. My father would not endanger anybody’s lives including his own or the passengers that would be coming into that helicopter. My father was the epitome of a professional when it comes to being a helicopter pilot,” said Lawrence De Samaniego as she reflected on her father’s career as a pilot.
She herself got married last month and said she’s grateful her father was there.
“My father has been an individual who has always been full of life, always loved family, always loved events, always loved being around people. Although he’s no longer with us now, he is with us in spirit. We can feel him looking down on us. It was a blessing to be able to get married with my father there,” she said.
The cause of the crash is unknown, but the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
“We love them (the couple) and they know my father loved them and he had the utmost loyalty to the Byler family and, although it’s such a tragic day for both of our families, that they passed at a loving date and that everybody was there to cherish their moment and to love them and to be together -- I hope that brings some comfort to both of our families, that it wasn’t a sad day at that moment, that it was a moment and a day full of love and comfort and cherishing for the couple.”
Lawrence De Samaniego said there’s some comfort in knowing her father died doing what he loved.
“I hope that people realize that, although this is a tragedy, my father would not want us to grieve. My father would want us to remember him and to love him and to put a smile on our face as quickly as we can after our grieving process. He would want us to love and continue our lives and to just live every day like it’s our last.”