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Helicopter pilot's controls, chopper's mechanical integrity investigated

An undated photo of Gerald Lawrence, the pilot who was killed in a helicopter crash on Nov. 4, 2018.
An undated photo of Gerald Lawrence, the pilot who was killed in a helicopter crash on Nov. 4, 2018. (KPRC2)

HOUSTON – Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will scrutinize a 30-second video of the Bell 206 helicopter that crashed Saturday night near Uvalde west of San Antonio, killing all three passengers.

The passengers were the pilot and a young bride and groom leaving their wedding reception.

Federal Aviation Administration records obtained by Channel 2 Investigates shows the chopper was manufactured in 2005. It was registered to WT Byler Construction, a Houston-based heavy and civil engineering construction company owned by the groom's family.

At a briefing Monday, NTSB investigator Craig Hatch said the flight “departed shortly after midnight,” crashing approximately 10 flight minutes from the ranch where the doomed chopper departed.

The crash site is situated on a hilltop, according to Hatch.

"It's kind of planted precariously on the side of hill. There are several factors that could go wrong that could get him there."

There were no signs of fire at the site but debris was scattered over 100 yards. Access to the location is a challenge all to itself, according to Texas Game Warden Rachel Kellner.

"The terrain is terrible. It's the side of the mountain."

Texas game wardens, Border Patrol and DPS all collaborated in locating the downed aircraft.

"When we got to the site we knew what we were dealing with," Kellner said.

The crash also claimed the life of Gerald Lawrence. The 76-year-old pilot was described as a highly qualified by the NTSB -- "A high-time guy, I think, like, 24,000 hours, so a very experienced pilot," Hatch said.

Lawrence's last medical checkup was in March, according to the FAA. Records show he must wear corrective lenses. Lawrence was rated to fly helicopters and also had multiple privileges for fixed-wing aircraft.

Investigators will focus their investigation the actions by Lawrence at the controls, the mechanical integrity of the aircraft and the weather, including the night conditions in the minutes leading up to the crash.

An NTSB preliminary will be issued in approximately two weeks.