The death of American professional basketball player, Kobe Bryant has brought memories of various public figures and celebrities who have died through plane crashes into the spotlight.
Fans all over the world were shocked on Sunday, January 26, 2020, when reports of the death of Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) and 7 other people on board Bryant’s Sikorsky S-76 helicopter hit the news.
In all, over 400 celebrities, including actors, singers, political figures, sports icons had their lives cut short by tragic aviation deaths around the world.
We have compiled a list of 30 world icons who died in Airplane crashes.
Known in real life as Aaliyah Dana Haughton, the 22-year-old American R&B artiste died after her plane went down after takeoff on Aug. 25, 2001. She had been travelling from the Bahamas to Miami after filming the music video for her song “Rock the Boat.” The eight other people on board the plane were also killed. 8 other passengers, including a close friend of hers.
2. John F. Kennedy Jnr & family
On July 16, 1999, 38-year-old Kennedy, a licensed pilot, plus his 33-year-old wife Bessette-Kennedy and her sister Lauren Bessette, 34, took off for Martha’s Vineyard from a Fairfield, New Jersey, airport. When their plane didn’t arrive on time, it was reported missing. A search began, and eventually, on July 19, what was left of the plane was found in the Atlantic; all three bodies were found on July 21.
3. Myles Munroe
The famous evangelist and his wife died in a private plane crash during airport approach on 9 November 2014. Bahamian officials stated their aircraft struck a crane at a shipyard near Grand Bahama International Airport. Munroe and the other passengers were en route to Freeport, Grand Bahama for a conference.
4. Ottis Redding and the bar keys
The American songwriter and his band (the bar keys) were travelling to performance at the Factory nightclub, near the University of Wisconsin in Redding’s Beechcraft H18 airplane. According to reports by the BBC, although the weather was poor, with heavy rain and fog, and despite warnings, the plane took off. Four miles (6.4 km) from their destination at Truax Field in Madison, the pilot radioed for permission to land. Shortly thereafter, the plane crashed into Lake Monona. Bar-Kays member Ben Cauley, the accident’s only survivor, was sleeping shortly before the accident.
5. Lynyrd Skynyrd
This is one of the most popular deaths in the 1990s. Three members of rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd died in an Oct. 20, 1977, plane crash after their aircraft ran out of fuel and went down in Gillsburg, Mississippi. The deceased were Ronnie Van Zant, the band’s lead vocalist, guitar player and vocalist Steve Gaines and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines. The band’s assistant road manager, Dean Kilpatrick, also died. Twenty others, however, survived the crash.
6. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & ‘The Big Bopper’
The day Buddy Holly and two other musicians died is described as “the day music died”. On Feb. 3, 1959, Holly was killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, just a few miles away from the airport, along with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. He was only 22 years old when he died, but Holly left behind a lasting legacy, best known for songs like “Peggy Sue” and “Oh Boy!”
7. Jenni Rivera
The Grammy-nominated Rivera, then 43, was killed in a plane crash shortly after takeoff on Dec. 9, 2012. Mexican authorities confirmed that the wreckage of the small plane had been found in Nuevo Leon state, and there were no survivors among the seven people believed to be on board.
8. Roberto Clemente
An active philanthropist, 38-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates player Clemente was travelling to Managua, Nicaragua, to bring aid and supplies to the country after a destructive earthquake. The plane was overloaded with supplies — by 4,200 lbs. and crashed off the coast of Puerto Rico just after it took off. His body was never recovered.
9. John Denver
Musician Denver who, ironically, sings the tune “Leaving on a Jet Plane” was also a pilot who had ample experience in the air. He died when the plane he was piloting crashed in Monterey Bay, California, on Oct. 12, 1997; he was 53.
10. Glen Miller
In 1944, the über-popular bandleader and musician was traveling from England to France to give a performance for the troops that had just liberated Paris from Nazi occupation. Along the way, however, his plane disappeared over the English Channel. Both Miller and the plane were never found. He was 40 years old.
11. Kick Kennedy
Born Kathleen Kennedy and nicknamed Kick, was the 28-year-old sister of President John F. Kennedy. On May 13, 1948, she died in a plane crash on the way from Paris to the French Riviera. After the plane encountered intense levels of turbulence, it fell nose-first in a ravine in the Cévennes Mountains.
12. Cory Lidle
A pitcher for the New York Yankees, Lidle died after his plane crashed into a New York City apartment building on Oct. 11, 2006. Also killed was Lidle’s flight instructor, from whom he had been taking lessons. It is not known who was flying the plane at the time of the crash. Lidle was 34 years old.
13. Stevie Ray Vaughn
Guitarist Vaughn died early the morning of Aug. 26, 1990, after his helicopter crashed into a ski hill. He had been travelling to Chicago after performing in East Troy, Wisconsin, with Eric Clapton. He was 35 years old.
14. Troy Gentry
Gentry, who was one half of the country duo Montgomery Gentry, died in a helicopter crash in Medford, New Jersey, on Sept. 8, 2017. The band confirmed Gentry’s death in a post on their Facebook page and stated that details surrounding the crash were unknown. He was 50 years old and is survived by his wife Angie and their daughters, Kaylee and Taylor.
15. Bill Graham
The American rock concert promoter died in a helicopter crash on Friday, October 25, 1991, when a Bell 206 carrying him, his girlfriend, Melissa Gold, and pilot Steve Kahn crashed into a transmission tower west of Vallejo, California, killing everyone on board. The cause of the accident was determined to be the pilot’s intentional flight into known adverse weather conditions.
16. James Horner
Horner died on June 22, 2015, when his Short Tucano turboprop aircraft, registration number N206PZ, crashed into the Los Padres National Forest near Ventucopa, California. Horner was the only occupant of the aircraft when it took off after fueling at Camarillo Airport. Three days later, on June 25, the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the crash an accident
17. Prince George
Prince George was the Duke of Kent who was killed on August 25, 1942, in a plane crash during World War 2 at Eagle’s Rock, near Dunbeath, Caithness. The Sunderland Flying Boat in which he was flying was officially heading to Iceland where the Duke was scheduled to meet some senior members of the U.S. Military. His tragic death has been also labelled as one of the greatest mysteries of the world.
18. Hansie Cronje
The 32-year-old South African cricketer was killed on June 1, 2002, when a light plane in which he was a passenger crashed into a mountain near George airport in Western Cape. Cronje, who was captain of the national team, and regarded as a brilliant batsman, was forced out of the side after the match-fixing scandal in 2000.
19. Carole Lombard
The highest-paid Hollywood Star in the late 1930s died in a plane crash with her mother and other 20 people, including 15 U.S Army soldiers aboard a Transcontinental and Western Air Douglas DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport) aircraft to return to California in the early morning hours of January 16, 1942. After refuelling in Las Vegas, TWA Flight 3 took off at 7:07 pm and crashed into “Double Up Peak” near the 8,300-foot (2,530 m) level of Potosi Mountain, 32 statute miles (51 km) southwest of the Las Vegas airport.
20. Manchester United team
Known popularly as the Munich air disaster, the Manchester United incident occurred on 6 February 1958 when British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany. On the plane was the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the “Busby Babes”, along with supporters and journalists. Twenty of the 44 on the aircraft died at the scene. The injured, some unconscious, were taken to the Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich where three more died, resulting in 23 fatalities with 21 survivors.
21. Patsy Cline
Patsy, who is considered as one of the most influential 20th-century singers, died in a crash, March 1963, after she appeared at a benefit show in Kansas City, Missouri. To return home, she boarded a plane along with country performers Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and manager Randy Hughes. Upon hitting rough weather, the plane crashed outside of Camden, Tennessee, killing all those on board. She’s known for songs like “She’s Got You”, “When I Get Through with You”, and “So Wrong”.
22. Emiliano Sala
The 28-year-old striker died after his plane crashed into the English Channel on Jan. 21, 2019. Sala was en route to Cardiff City, where he was set to make his debut after a transfer from Nantes.
23. Rocky Marciano
On August 31, 1969 (the day before his 46th birthday), the professional boxer was a passenger in a small private plane, a Cessna 172 heading to Des Moines, Iowa. It was night time and bad weather had set in. The pilot, Glenn Belz, had 231 total hours of flying time, 35 of them at night, and had no instrument rating. Belz tried to land the plane at a small airfield outside Newton, Iowa but the aircraft hit a tree two miles short of the runway. Flying with Marciano in the back seat was Frankie Farrell, 28, the oldest son of Lew Farrell, a former boxer who had known Marciano since his childhood. Marciano, Belz and Farrell were killed on impact.
24. Ricky Nelson
Nelson died in a plane crash on December 31, 1985, flying from Guntersville, Alabama, to Dallas, Texas, for a concert. The plane was his own Douglas DC-3, which had a history of mechanical problems. All seven passengers, including Blair, died. Only the two pilots survived
25. Jim Croce
The rock singer-songwriter and all five others on board were killed when their chartered Beechcraft E18S crashed into a tree during takeoff from the Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Croce was 30 years old
26. Audie Murphy
The American soldier, actor, songwriter, and rancher was killed on 28 May 1971, when the private plane in which he was a passenger crashed into Brush Mountain, near Catawba, Virginia, 20 miles (32 km) west of Roanoke in conditions of rain, clouds, fog and zero visibility. The pilot and four other passengers were also killed
27. Sanjay Gandhi
One of the most powerful figures in Indian Politics and the elder son of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Sanjay was killed in an air crash on 23 June 1980 near Safdarjung Airport in New Delhi. While flying a new aircraft of the Delhi Flying Club, he lost his control which yielded a straight downfall of the aircraft. In this tragic crash, his friend Captain Subhash Saxena also fell to the guiles of destiny.
28. Samantha Smith
The child activist and peace activists died on August 25, 1985, Smith with her father who were returning home aboard Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after filming a segment for Lime Street. While attempting to land at Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport in Auburn, Maine, the Beechcraft 99 commuter plane struck some trees 4,007 feet (1,221 m) short of the runway and crashed, killing all six passengers and two crew on board
29. James Stephen Fossett
On September 3rd, 2007, the millionaire and adventurer aged 63, disappeared after flying a Bellanca Super Decathlon, tail number N240R, from the “Flying M Ranch” near Yerington, Nevada. Despite an intense two week search for the missing aviator, including the unorthodox use of online mapping software by over 50,000 people, no trace of Fossett, or his plane, had been found for over a year, until October of 2008.
30. Yahaya Ahmad
as the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the DRB-HICOM Group of Malaysia. He was famously known as Malaysia’s “Car Czar”
31. Jim Reeves
Country balladeer known for “Four Walls” and “Welcome to My World,” was killed in the crash of a small plane in Nashville, Tenn.
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