From Glenn Miller to Aaliyah: Popular Musicians Who Died in Airplane Crashes


Singer Patsy Cline, who was killed in a crash of a Piper Comanche in 1963 (see the function within the Autumn 2022 challenge of Aviation Historical past) was neither the primary nor the final in style musician to die in an airplane crash. Listed here are some notable instances.

Glenn Miller (1944)

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Huge Bopper (1959)

Immortalized by Don McLean’s tune “American Pie” as “The Day the Music Died,” the crash of a Beechcraft Bonanza on February 3, 1959, took the lives of 22-year-old Buddy Holly (“Peggy Sue”), Ritchie Valens (17) and J.P. Richardson (“The Huge Bopper,” who was 28). Shortly after taking off from the airport in Clear Lake, Iowa, on a flight to Fargo, North Carolina for a present in close by Moorhead, Minnesota, the single-engine airplane encountered unhealthy climate and crashed in a cornfield. All aboard, together with the 21-year-old pilot, Roger Peterson, died. Valens, whose huge hit was “La Bamba,” bought a seat on the airplane after successful a coin flip with guitarist Tommy Allsup. Waylon Jennings, then a member of Holly’s band, gave up his seat to Richardson, who was sick. The investigation blamed pilot Peterson, who was not ready for the climate he encountered on the flight.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Huge Bopper by no means made it to this live performance (HistoryNet Archives).

Patsy Cline (1963)

Nation singer Patsy Cline, 30, and three others died in a crash of a Piper Comanche on March 5, 1963. Cline was on her approach again to her dwelling in Nashville, Tennessee, after performing in Kansas Metropolis, Kansas. The pilot was her supervisor, Ramsey “Randy” Dorris Hughes. Dangerous climate had been making the journey troublesome and compelled a number of stops alongside the way in which. After taking off from Dyersburg, Tennessee, into rain, clouds and darkening skies, the airplane crashed to earth within the countryside about 75 miles west of Nashville. Cline, Hughes and musicians Harold Franklin “Hankshaw” Hawkins and Llody Estel “Cowboy” Copas had been all killed. The accident investigators blamed pilot error.

Patsy Cline was returning dwelling from this Kansas Metropolis present when her airplane crashed (HistoryNet Archives).

Jim Reeves (1964)

Nation singer Jim Reeves, 40, died in a crash much like Cline’s, besides on this case Reeves was flying his personal airplane. The singer, identified for hits like “4 Partitions,” took off from Batesville, Arkansas, on July 31, 1964, for a flight to Nashville. Reeves was on the controls of his single-engine Beechcraft 35-B33 Debonair. His solely passenger was his supervisor, Dean Manuel. Reeves flew right into a violent rainstorm over Brentwood, Tennessee, and apparently grew to become disoriented. The airplane plunged into the bottom at excessive pace. It took 42 hours to find the wreckage in a search that included nation stars Marty Robbins and Ernest Tubb.

Otis Redding (1967)

Soul singer Otis Redding, 26, died within the crash of his chartered twin-engine Beechcraft 18 on December 10, 1967. Redding and members of his band, the Bar-Kays, had taken off from the airport in Cleveland for a flight to Madison, Wisconsin, with pilot Richard Fraser. The climate was unhealthy, with chilly drizzle and fog. Whereas on the method to Madison the airplane plunged into Lake Monona. The precise explanation for the crash stays undetermined, however the Beechcraft might have been experiencing engine issues. Of the seven passengers, the one survivor was 20-year-old Ben Cauley, one of many musicians. (The opening band for Redding in Madison that evening was to be an area outfit known as the Grim Reapers, that includes future Low cost Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen.) 4 months after Redding’s loss of life his single “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” reached the highest of the charts. It was his first #1 report.

Jim Croce (1973)

Singer/songwriter Jim Croce, 30, was a rising star on September 20, 1973, when he carried out his final live performance at Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, Louisiana. He had achieved chart success with “Dangerous, Dangerous Leroy Brown” and different songs and was engaged on a 3rd album. Weary of the highway, he was desperate to get to the subsequent and remaining cease on the tour in Sherman, Texas. The pilot of his chartered Beechcraft E18 was Robert N. Elliott, who needed to make many of the three-mile journey to the airport on foot as a result of he couldn’t get a cab. Instantly after takeoff from Natchitoches Regional Airport, the airplane hit a pecan tree. All six onboard, together with guitarist Maury Muehleisen, comic George Stevens, highway supervisor Dennis Rast and Croce’s agent, Kenneth D. Cortese, died within the crash. The investigation blamed pilot error.

Lynyrd Skynyrd (1977)

Members of the nation rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Candy Residence Alabama,” “Free Hen”) had been aboard a chartered flight of a twin-engine Convair CV-240 on October 20, 1977. The band’s fifth album, Avenue Survivors, had been launched solely three days earlier than. The flight flew out of Greenville, South Carolina, en path to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when it crashed close to Gillsburg, Mississippi. The accident investigation decided that the airplane ran out of gas as a result of the pilots had uncared for to correctly test their gas standing. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant (29), guitarist Steve Gaines (28) and backup singer Cassie Gaines (29) had been killed, as was an assistant highway supervisor and the pilot and copilot. Twenty different individuals aboard the Convair survived. MCA Information later re-released Avenue Survivors with a distinct cowl—the unique had proven the band surrounded by flames.

(Avenue Survivors was launched three days earlier than a airplane crash killed three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The report label re-released the album with a distinct cowl. )

Randy Rhoads (1982)

On March 19, 1982, Randy Rhoads, guitarist for rocker Ozzy Osbourne, died within the crash of a Beechcraft Bonanza in Leesburg, Florida. Rhoads, 25, was a passenger within the airplane, which was flown by Andrew Aycock, who drove a bus for the band. The airplane belonged to nation singer Jerry Calhoun. The accident occurred when Aycock, whose pilot’s license had expired, tried to buzz Osbourne’s tour bus, clipped a wing on the bus, and crashed into Calhoun’s home. All three aboard the airplane, together with the band’s seamstress, had been killed. In accordance with the report by the Nationwide Transportation Security Board, “The pilot, who was a rock group driver, took an plane from the hangar with out permission to pleasure trip members of the group.”

Ricky Nelson (1985)

Singer Ricky Nelson, 45, had develop into well-known as one of many offspring of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and performed himself on his dad and mom’ reveals on radio and tv. Occupied with music, Nelson launched a musical profession, with hits that included “Good day Mary Lou” and “Backyard Occasion.” He was killed on December 31, 1985, when his airplane, a 1944 Douglas DC-3 that Nelson had bought to be used as a tour airplane, was making an attempt an emergency touchdown on account of an inside hearth. The DC-3 had taken off from Guntersville, Alabama, for a flight to Dallas and crashed exterior De Kalb, Texas. The reason for the fireplace was believed to be a faulty heater. The pilot and copilot survived however had been badly burned; the opposite seven aboard had been killed.

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1990)

After serving as David Bowie’s guitarist on the 1983 album Let’s Dance, Stevie Ray Vaughan, 35, loved a profitable solo profession as a blues singer/guitarist together with his band Double Bother. He died early within the morning of August 27, 1990, within the crash of a Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter exterior Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The helicopter had departed from the Alpine Valley Music Theater for a flight to Chicago’s Halfway Airport following Vaughan’s live performance look with Eric Clapton and others. Shortly after taking off, the helicopter crashed into a close-by ski mountain. All aboard, 4 passengers and pilot Jeff Brown, had been killed. The trigger was put down as pilot error; Brown may need skilled evening blindness after taking off underneath shiny lights after which ascending into fog and darkness.

John Denver (1997)

Singer-songwriter John Denver, whose hits included “Nation Roads” and “Rocky Mountain Excessive,” died on October 12, 1997, within the crash of a home-built plane he had not too long ago bought. Denver (born John Henry Deutschendorf Jr.) had been flying a Rutan Lengthy-EZ on the Pacific Coast close to Pacific Grove, California, when the airplane plunged into the ocean. Denver, 53, was an skilled pilot (though his license had been suspended following incidents of drunk driving) however investigators decided he had in all probability crashed after unsuccessfully making an attempt to modify gas tanks in flight, a maneuver which will have led him to inadvertently hit the rudder pedal by mistake, resulting in a lack of management. 

Aaliyah (2001)

Singer, dancer and actress Aailyah (full identify Aaliyah Dana Haughton) was solely 22 when she died within the crash of a twin-engine Cessna 402 on August 25, 2001. Aailyah had launched three best-selling albums on the time of her loss of life and was married briefly (and illegally) to her mentor, rapper and producer R. Kelly, on the age of 15. After capturing a music video, she and eight different individuals had boarded the chartered Cessna for a flight from the Bahamas to Florida. The airplane crashed simply after takeoff, killing all aboard. Investigators discovered that pilot Luis Morales III had traces of medication and alcohol in his system and was not rated to fly the Cessna, and that the airplane had been overloaded.

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