It was just a few days ago that Jessica Stilley had watched her best friend, 24-year-old Bailee Ackermann, marry Will Byler, the man of her dreams. According to People, the fairytale wedding which included over 700 guests took place on Saturday in Uvalde, Texas. The newlyweds, who were both from Sam Houston State University, enjoyed their perfect day surrounded by family and friends.
However, the happiest day of their life would also end up being their last. Following the reception, the happy couple boarded a helicopter belonging to the groom’s father. The helicopter, a Bell 206B, would take Ackermann and Byler to the airport where they would later leave for their honeymoon destination. Unfortunately, the helicopter crashed en route, killing the couple and their pilot. Although the cause of the crash is still being investigated, it is known that it crashed into a side of a hill only a short distance away from the family ranch. Due to the location of the crash, it was difficult for rescue efforts to reach it.
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My sweet Bailee Raye, my heart is broken in a million little pieces as I sit here and think of the rest of my life without my best friend. I’m so sad to even be captioning these pictures with this, but you know I just have to share with everyone how beautiful you looked on your wedding day like I normally would have. Standing beside you as your Maid of Honor, chasing your veil around in the wind Saturday as you said “I Do” and you looking back at me saying “Thanks Jess”, it’ll replay in my mind forever. I’ll never forget helping you get ready that day while I cried tears of happiness telling you how much I loved you and how thankful I was for this true friendship we shared and I’ll never forget the sweetest words you said back to me. I’ll always cherish the speech you asked me to give at the rehearsal and the opportunity you gave me to tell you and everyone else how special both you and Will are to me. I’m so happy you married the man of your dreams and found the precious love you deserved with him. We always said we’d find the men to sweep us off our feet one day and boy am I so happy you get to be with him in the best forever you could imagine. Thank you for loving me from the day we met. Thank you for being the very best, best friend I could ever ask for. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for laughing and crying your way through life with me. Thank you for being the sister I never had. I love you so much Bai. Please be sure to hold your loved ones close tonight and send a prayer out for these three families and friends.
Stilley, who was Ackermann’s maid of honor during her wedding, is still processing the unthinkable tragedy. She turned to Instagram to post a touching tribute to her best friend.
“My sweet Bailee Raye, my heart is broken in a million little pieces as I sit here and think of the rest of my life without my best friend. I’m so sad to even be captioning these pictures with this, but you know I just have to share with everyone how beautiful you looked on your wedding day like I normally would have. Standing beside you as your Maid of Honor, chasing your veil around in the wind Saturday as you said ‘I Do’ and you looking back at me saying ‘Thanks Jess’, it’ll replay in my mind forever.”
The caption went along with a series of photos of Ackermann on her wedding day, smiling in a beaded wedding gown with Stilley at her side. Stilley recounted her honor at being able to give a speech at the wedding, sharing the joy both Ackermann and Byler brought to her life. She called Ackermann the sister she never had and thanked her for providing her with a friendship that sustained her through the good and bad in life.
Although Stilley is heartbroken at the premature loss of her best friend, she is finding comfort knowing that the bride died having finally found the love of her life.