Gone Too Soon: Celebs Who Died In Plane Crashes

Tragedies occur too often in the form of plane crashes. Pop culture has lost many loved celebrities that boarded ill-fated flights. Whether these horrific wrecks were due to engine failure, an overload of cargo, or poor weather conditions, the lives of these talented stars were taken from us way too soon.

Patsy Cline Fails To Make It

Patsy plane crash.JPG

Patsy was a country-western singer who died in a plane crash in 1963. The pilot flew the plane in poor weather conditions to the dismay of his superiors and crashed 90 miles outside of Nashville, Tennessee. All passengers were killed instantly on impact.

Ritchie Valens And The Day The Music Died Pt. 1

Ritchie Valens And The Day The Music Died Pt. 1

Musician Ritchie Valens was aboard the infamous 1959 plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and Jiles Richardson (the “Big Bopper”). Valens’ career only last eight months at the time of his death. He was a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock ‘n roll movement. Ritchie was 17 years old at the time of the crash. Valens was only on that plane because of a coin toss. Dion DiMucci revealed that he won the coin toss but refused to pay the money to get on the flight, so he gave the last seat to Ritchie Valens.

Buddy Holly And The Day The Music Died Pt. 2

Buddy Holly And The Day The Music Died Pt. 2

Buddy Holly was the second musician on the same plane as Ritchie Valens and Jiles Richardson. He was only 22 years when the flight crashed in Iowa. He had a short, yet promising career that influenced The Beatles, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones. They were all on tour when their bus broke down after the heating system malfunctioned. Holly wanted to get a charter plane after a show that could only fit three other passengers…

Jiles “The Big Bopper” Richardson And The Day The Music Died Pt. 3

Jiles “The Big Bopper” Richardson And The Day The Music Died Pt. 3

Jiles Richardson, otherwise known as “The Big Bopper”, died in a plane crash alongside his fellow musicians, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. The wreckage and the musicians’ bodies weren’t recovered until almost a day after the crash because of weather conditions and location. The anniversary of the musical trio’s demise has been coined as “the day the music died.”

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Helicopter Caught In Fog

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Helicopter Caught In Fog

Stevie Ray Vaughan was 35 years old when his small helicopter crashed into Wisconsin terrain. He was on one of the biggest tours of his career and his name was starting to be mentioned alongside Jimi Hendrix. The pilot failed to reach the appropriate altitude after taking off in a cloud of fog, costing the lives of everyone on board. Stevie was inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 for his status as a music legend.

John F. Kennedy Jr. Tragedy Number One

John F. Kennedy Jr. Tragedy Number One

If there was ever a family that was tragically cursed, it would be the Kennedys. JFK Jr. boarded a plane with his wife and sister-in-law in 1999 and it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. JFK Jr. was 38 years old and his wife Carolyn was 33.

Carole Radziwill, best friend and cousin-in-law of Carolyn and Kennedy, opened up about the crash. “Carolyn called me from the plane right before they were taking off,” she said. “I don’t remember anything important from that conversation. I remember at the end she said, you know, ‘I love you’.”

Music Loses An Angel

Music Loses An Angel

Aaliyah was one of the most heart-breaking celebrity deaths of the 2000s. The 22-year-old singer died in a plane crash in the Bahamas after her flight was overloaded with excessive cargo. The pilot and Aaliyah’s video crew got in a heated debate but eventually, the pilot gave in and took off. Lewis Key, one of the pilots, also revealed that there was some trouble starting the other engine. Aaliyah is still remembered in the R&B world and honored by artists such as Missy Elliot and Jay-Z.

Jenni Rivera Gone Due to Inexperience

Jenni Rivera Gone Due to Inexperience

Jenni Rivera was a beloved, popular Mexican-American singer whose plane crashed off the coast of Mexico in 2012. She died along with five other passengers at the age of 43. Based on the temporary airman’s certificate found at the crash site, one of the pilots was inexperienced. The Los Angeles City Council named August 6th “Jenni Rivera Day” to honor her music career and charitable projects she accomplished during her lifetime.

Otis Redding’s Pilot Ignores Warnings

Otis Redding’s Pilot Ignores Warnings

Otis Redding boarded a plane in 1967 that crashed in waters of Wisconsin’s Lake Monona. There was one passenger who survived by holding onto a flotation device, while Otis and the other passengers drowned in the cold water. There were multiple warnings, due to heavy rain and fog, but the plane still took off. James Brown even asked Redding to not get on that plane. The singer was 26 years old.

Rocky Marciano’s TKO

Rocky Marciano’s TKO

One of the greatest heavyweight champions in American history, Rocky Marciano, died on his 46th birthday when his plane crashed in Iowa. The sheriff on the site of the crash said, “the only thing we have found out so far was that the engine conked out and they went down.” His knockout-to-win percentage is the highest in boxing history and he went undefeated for six titles in a row.

Melanie Thornton’s Rise Falls Short

Melanie Thornton’s Rise Falls Short

Melanie Thornton was a front-runner on the 1990s music scene with her musical group, La Bouche. They released smash hits such as “Sweet Dreams” and “Be My Lover”, which became the party club anthems of the decade. In 2001, her plane crashed near Zurich, Switzerland while she was on her European tour promoting her album. “Melanie’s death is a shock for all of us,” George Glueck, head of her Berlin-based record company X-cell Records, said in a statement.

James Horner Will Live on Forever

James Horner Will Live on Forever

James Horner was an Oscar-winning composer best known for his work on Titanic. He died in 2015 near Santa Barbara, California after the plane he was piloting crashed. “A great tragedy has struck my family today, and I will not be around for a while. I would like some privacy and time to heal,” Horner’s assistant posted on Facebook. Horner was 61 years old. Titanic is still the best-selling orchestral soundtrack of all time.

Barbara Olson, Just One Of 9/11’s Victims

Barbara Olson, Just One Of 9/11’s Victims

Barbara Olson was a fatal casualty of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The CNN commentator had spoken out against Osama Bin Laden’s threat to American society and security months before boarding the doomed aircraft. She was 46 years old at the time of her death.

Fernanda Vogel’s Young Career Gets Drowned

Fernanda Vogel’s Young Career Gets Drowned

Fernanda Vogel was an up-and-coming supermodel when her helicopter crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2001. The 20-year-old drowned after the plane crashed, not being able to swim to shore. Her body was found floating off Santiago beach which was about six miles from the crash site. Her boyfriend and the co-pilot were the only survivors.

Jim Reeves’ Injury Leads To Fatality

Jim Reeves’ Injury Leads To Fatality

Country music singer Jim Reeves died in a plane crash during a thunderstorm just outside Nashville, Tennessee. Reeves was piloting the plane alongside his manager Dean Manuel, and the two men were killed on impact. “More than 700 volunteer searchers, civil-defense workers and policeman covered a 20-square-mile area,” the New York Times reported. It took two days to find the wreckage and their bodies. When Reeves was in spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals he injured his arm and that is when he turned to music.

Vic Morrow In The Twilight Zone Incident

Vic Morrow In The Twilight Zone Incident

Vic Morrow was an American actor and director best known for his role in the television series Combat! He was decapitated during a helicopter crash that also killed two child actors while filming the Twilight Zone film. His lines for that scene were “I’ll keep you safe, kids. I promise. Nothing will hurt you.” That day is forever embedded in Hollywood history for all the wrong reasons. He was only 57 years old.

Sanjay Gandhi Was Overly Excited

Sanjay Gandhi Was Overly Excited

Sanjay Gandhi is known for being the son of Indira Gandhi. Sanjay was flying a test plane in New Delhi that had not been tested for mechanical problems, and he killed himself along with his passenger. On the morning of his death, a resident of the Gandhi household ran into Sanjay at the airport. “I was most happy to find Sanjay at the airport but when he suggested that he would take me up for a ride in the new Pitts S-2A , I was a little apprehensive,” said the resident. Sanjay died in 1980 at the age of 33.

Roberto Clemente’s Heart Was In The Right Place

Roberto Clemente’s Heart Was In The Right Place

Roberto Clemente had a long, successful career with the Philadelphia Pirates. He played for 18 seasons before boarding a plan to Nicaragua in an attempt to deliver aid to earthquake survivors. His plane crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico and his body was never found. Clemente spent his off-seasons in Puerto Rico and played and managed teams out there so it made plenty sense for him to go and try to help.

Will Rogers Got Too Impatient

Will Rogers Got Too Impatient

Western film star Will Rogers was on board a small plane when it crashed in Alaska in 1935. The person flying the plane, famed aviator Wiley Post (who also died), bought the most expensive plane he could afford being short on cash during the time of purchase. He also ordered a part that made it easier to land on water but it was to take to long to arrive so instead of waiting, he fitted another piece that made the plane to nose heavy. The cowboy was 55 years old when he died. After his death, an Oklahoma City airport was named after him; the Will Rogers World Airport.

Payne Stewart’s Fate Was Out Of His Control

Payne Stewart’s Fate Was Out Of His Control

Payne Stewart was an American pro-golfer. He died in 1999 when his plane lost cabin pressure and crashed in Gainesville, Florida. ABC News reported that “the probable cause of the crash was the loss of consciousness of two pilots caused by the loss of cabin pressure.” Stewart acquired three final championship titles before his death at the age of 42.

Jim Croce’s Run-In With A Tree

Jim Croce’s Run-In With A Tree

Jim Croce was a popular folk singer in the late 60s and the early 70s. While on tour, Jim’s plane crashed into a tree in Louisiana and killed everyone on board. “It was a single-engine plane, I believe,” said Deputy Walter Braxton. “It was taking off and it did not get any altitude.” The plane went past the runway, hit the tree, and spun around in the air before crashing. The musician was 30 years old at the time of his death and he had just gained headliner status not too soon before the crash.

Peter Tomarken’s Skills Were Tested

Peter Tomarken’s Skills Were Tested

Peter Tomarken was a television personality and Press Your Luck game show host. He died in 2006 after his private plane, which he was piloting, powered out and crashed before he could turn it back to the airport. The aircraft engine had lost complete power due to improper repair. The call for help was recording and goes as follows. “What’s the nature of your emergency?” asked an air traffic controller. “I’m losing the engine. It’s going out on me,” said Tomarken. He was then directed back to the Santa Monica airport where he departed from. “I’m at 900 feet. I don’t think I can make the airport,” said Tomarken.

Jose Wejebe Harmed By The Wind

Jose Wejebe Harmed By The Wind

Jose Wejebe hosted a fishing television program on the Outdoor Channel. Out of the passengers on his plane, he was the only one who didn’t survive. The plane crashed just a few short miles away from the take-off runway, near the Florida Everglades. Around 275 yards from the runway to be exact, where the winds were estimated to be at 14 mph. He was piloting and was said to have tons of experience but the aircraft he was flying was known for being accident-prone.

Natalie Sinatra’s Last Moments

Natalie Sinatra’s Last Moments

Natalie Sinatra, or more affectionately known as “Dolly”, was the mother of Frank Sinatra. Dolly was simply on her way to Vegas to see her son. Dolly boarded a plane out of Palm Springs and it crashed in the mountains due to crew failure. “The bodies were pretty well dismembered,” said a spokesman for the San Bernardino sheriff’s department. The singing legend’s mom was 82.

Boris Sagal’s On-Set Accident

Boris Sagal’s On-Set Accident

Boris Sagal, originally from the Ukraine, was a television and film director. Sagal was partially decapitated on the set of a movie after walking into the rotatory tail blade of an engine. Sagal was at the Mount Hood resort filming for the television movie World War III when the accident took place. With injuries to his head and shoulder, he was flown 60 miles to Portland where he died next to his wife.

Randy Rhoads’ Last Joy Ride

Randy Rhoads’ Last Joy Ride

Randy Rhoads was a guitarist who played with notable bands such as Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. At the age of 25, he died in a plane crash while on tour with Ozzy. He was taking a joy ride in a Beechcraft Bonanza along with Rachel Youngblood and Andrew Aycock. He still flew even though he had a fear of flying. Osbourne’s wife Sharon was also present. She said, “They were all in bits, it was just body parts everywhere.” Rhoads considered one of the greatest heavy metal guitarists in rock history.

Ronnie Van Zant Was All Out Of Fuel

Ronnie Van Zant Was All Out Of Fuel

Ronnie Van Zant was the lyricist and lead singer for the legendary Southern rock band Lynard Skynard. He died during the peak of his career in 1977 at the age of 29. Three days after the release of the album, the chartered plane he and other band members were on crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi. The plane ran out of fuel as it neared its destination. When the pilots realized that fuel was low, they tried to make an emergency landing. Their efforts were for nothing. Van Zant was killed upon impact. Five others also lost their lives in the crash.

Ricky Nelson’s New Year’s Eve Fate

Ricky Nelson’s New Year’s Eve Fate

Ricky Nelson was a star who had a fear of flying but that didn’t stop him from traveling the skies. His private plane crashed in 1985, just two miles away from the landing runway. Nelson and the rest of the passengers were flying to Dallas for a New Year’s Eve concert. The plane crashed in a wooded place that was near De Kalb. The plane was circling De Kalb and a helicopter was sent up to ask if the pilot needed assistance. ”The plane made one more circle over the area and then crashed in flames,” Mr. Cox, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, said. He was 45 years old.

John Denver Loses Control

John Denver Loses Control

John Denver died in 1997 when an experimental plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of California. The aircraft ran out of fuel so Denver was trying to manipulate the fuel selector handle and he lost control. Unfamiliarity and a failure to refuel were the two things the NTSB cited as causal factors in the incident. The singer-songwriter wasn’t just a smash-hit record producer, but an activist and humanitarian. He was only 53 when he died.

Tony Lee Bettenhausen Jr. Spins To His Fate

Tony Lee Bettenhausen Jr. Spins To His Fate

Tony Lee Bettenhausen Jr. came from race car royalty and Indy legacy. Tony was piloting his own plane when he lost control and spun to the ground, dying in the crash. The plane crashed on a farm that was 30 miles from Lexington. “Tony was always a gentleman,” U.S. Auto Club spokesman Dick Jordan said. “We certainly will miss him, as will everybody in the racing community.” Bettenhausen’s wife was on the plane as well.

Glenn Miller’s Mysterious End

Glenn Miller’s Mysterious End

Glenn Miller’s airplane death is a mysterious one. One of the most popular bandleaders in the 1940s, Glenn joined the U.S. Army to help the war effort. He boarded a plane that was en route to England and the aircraft was lost in the English Channel, never to be found. Researchers claim 70 years later that they can put an answer to the mystery. After reviewing overlooked military documents, the plane he was traveling in most likely crashed in the English Channel because of the fuel intake being frozen.

Thurman Munson’s Joyful Spirit

Thurman Munson’s Joyful Spirit

Thurman Munson was a catcher for the Yankees in the 1970s. He crashed his own plane in 1979 when he failed to properly land at the Akron Regional Airport. A few nights before he was practicing landing and takeoffs and ran into Jerry Anderson and David Hall as he showed off the plane. He said, “I am so proud of this. This is something that’s going to enable us to really come back and forth. And I am going to be able to see my family more.” Munson was responsible for leading the Yankees to three consecutive World Series titles.

Mike Todd Was Ill Prepared

Mike Todd Was Ill Prepared

Mike Todd, a Hollywood film producer, died when a jet that he leased crashed just outside of New Mexico. Todd’s jet was named “Lucky Liz,” after his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The golden couple had only been married for one year. They were on their way to a testimonial dinner in Tulsa. He had only worked on Lucky Liz for a week before the crash occurred.

Berry Berenson, Another 9/11 Victim

Berry Berenson, Another 9/11 Victim

Berry Berenson was the ultimate triple threat; an actress, model and Hollywood photographer. The renaissance woman was mostly known as the widow of Anthony Perkins. Berenson was on American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. She was 53 years old.

Paul Wellstone Taken Out By Frozen Conditions

Paul Wellstone Taken Out By Frozen Conditions

Paul Wellstone was a Minnesota Senator from 1991 until his death in 2002. The former scholar was on board a doomed aircraft with his wife and daughter and they died together in the crash. The plane got taken down in a snowy, frozen rain but exploded into flames in a wooded location seven miles from the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport. The politician was in the middle of running for re-election.

Kathleen Cavendish, The Kennedy Curse

Kathleen Cavendish, The Kennedy Curse

Another plane crash, and another tragic tale for the Kennedy family. Kathleen Cavendish was the sister of John F. Kennedy and the wife of William Cavendish, the Marquess of Hartington. She died in a plane crash in 1948 on her way to the South of France. “When the pilot insisted that the turbulent weather conditions had made it unsafe to take off, Peter (the person she was having an affair with) demanded that the aircraft leave without delay,” reported by People magazine.

Cory Lidle Brings Back Memories

Cory Lidle Brings Back Memories

Cory Lidle was the second Yankee player to experience an untimely fate in a plane crash. The baseball star crashed his plane into a Manhattan apartment building when he was 34 years old. “We don’t know who was flying the aircraft,” said Debbie Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “It felt so much like Sept. 11,” said Diane Corliss of Queens, who was waiting in the Belaire for a doctor’s appointment. “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s happening all over again.’ ” The right-handed pitcher had a controversial history in America’s favorite pastime game.

Carole Lombard Didn’t Want To Take The Train

Carole Lombard Didn’t Want To Take The Train

Carole Lombard was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses in the 1930s. She was a beloved comedian and blonde bombshell who got married to Clark Gable at the peak of her career. Lombard and her mother both perished 20 minutes after the plane took off when it crashed into a mountain. She was traveling from Las Vegas on her way to Los Angeles. Because she didn’t want to wait for the train to get back home, she and her mother took the aircraft.

The Legendary Coach Knute Rockne

The Legendary Coach Knute Rockne

Knute Rockne was best known as the Notre Dame football coach that changed the school’s history forever. He led the university to a record-breaking 105-13-5 record during his 13-year career as head coach. The inspirational coach boarded a plane with an impaired wing to Witchita, and he died as a result of the plummeting crash.

The War-Decorated Hero Audie Murphy put to Rest

The War-Decorated Hero Audie Murphy put to Rest

Audie Murphy was a famous, war-decorated hero after World War II. Murphy took advantage of his newly found fame and pursued an acting career best remembered for his roles in Western films. The hero died in a plane crash due to a rainstorm near Roanoke, Virginia. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.