Helicopters and airplanes are the fastest way to travel long distances. Flights become an everyday part of life for jet-setting celebrities as they move from one performance to the next or leave the lights behind to enjoy a luxurious vacation.
While most major airline flights are safe, smaller trips with less experienced pilots can prove deadly. Crashes took the lives of sports legends like Kobe Bryant and Roberto Clemente, musicians like Buddy Holiday and Patsy Cline, and even politicians like JFK Jr.
These celebrities had their light blown out in a second by a tragedy that is almost too sudden to comprehend. Understanding the circumstances that led to these events can make us feel closer to our favorite lost stars.
Like and subscribe for more tragic celebrity stories. Watch our video for an overview of some of the most famous faces who died as a result of a plane or helicopter crash.
Kobe Bryant was a basketball superstar who played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2016. He won 5 NBA championships and was voted MVP and made the All-Star team in 15 out of the 20 seasons he played.
Kobe was known for his shooting and defending capabilities. He was a hard worker who managed several businesses and philanthropic efforts in addition to his basketball career. He even worked on several films throughout his lifetime and wrote the award-winning short film, Dear Basketball.
Kobe Bryant entered a helicopter with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and 6 other passengers. They flew off to attend her basketball game in Thousand Oaks, California. They encountered foggy conditions and crashed into the side of a mountain. All the helicopter’s passengers lost their lives.
Kobe was scheduled to host the Grammy Awards that night. The ceremony became a tribute to the basketball legend and his daughter. The LA Airport, Empire State Building, and Burj Khalifa joined in by lighting up in Lakers yellow.
Fellow basketball players shared their thoughts about the event. Teammate Shaquille O’Neil had no words to express his pain, and Micheal Jordan said that Kobe Bryant was “one of the greats of the game.”
JKF Jr .and Caroline
You may remember JFK Jr. and his beloved Caroline as socialites and fashion icons, but you may not have known that he was also a licensed pilot.
JFK Jr. set off to take Caroline and her sister Lauren to Martha’s Vineyard on July 16th, 1999. He began taking flying lessons only a year before but felt he was ready to take passengers along on a flight.
Due to their high-profile status, a search began almost immediately after their plane failed to arrive on time. It was eventually discovered in the ocean along with the bodies of JFK Jr., Caroline, and Lauren. Their ashes were scattered on the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the most legendary rock bands of all time. They rose to stardom with their hit Sweet Home Alabama. Their world came crashing down when tragedy struck in 1977.
Lynyrd Skynyrd was set to travel from South Carolina to Baton Rouge on October 20th. The entire band was on board when the plane ran out of fuel. They crashed into a Mississippi forest.
Singer Steve Gaines, his sister Cassie Gaines who sang backup, and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant all lost their lives. 20 other passengers survived but decided to temporarily break up the band.
There was one positive development that came out of this tragedy. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s album Street Survivors was released days before and became their second platinum album.
Like and subscribe for more on how the careers of your favorite music icons began and ended. Keep watching to learn about a celebrity plane crash so famous it’s now known as “The Day the Music Died.”
Buddy Holiday was an icon of 50’s music with songs like Peggy Sue, True Love Ways, and Not Fade Away.
Buddy was set to travel to a gig with two other major music names; Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Their tour bus developed heating problems, forcing them to travel by plane. They took the last available seat to ensure they got to their destination as soon as possible.
The plane crashed into a frozen cornfield in Iowa, taking the lives of all 3 passengers. The event now stands as one of the most well-known tragedies in the music business. It’s referred to as “The Day the Music Died” and referenced in the popular Don McLean song “American Pie.”
The event also had a major impact on Buddy Holiday’s wife, Maria Elena. They had only been married for 6 months at the time, and she suffered a miscarriage weeks later.
Aaliyah was an emerging music star in the early 2000s thanks to her popular album Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. She released 3 albums in total and worked with major names like Timbaland and Missy Elliot. She also starred in 2 films.
On August 25th, 2001, Aaliyah’s plane crashed in the Bahamas. She had recently finished filming a music video for her song Rock the Boat, and it was released posthumously.
Aaliyah’s soulful music and short but impactful career continue to live in the minds of fans and music lovers. She earned the affectionate nickname “Princess of R&B.”
Otis Redding was a popular soul singer who didn’t live long enough to see his career truly blossom. He died in a plane crash at the age of 26.
Before leaving that day, he called his wife Zelma and 4 children Dexter, Demetria, Karia, and Otis Redding III. No one expected that it would be the last time he’d ever speak to them.
Conditions were poor that night, with heavy rain and fog obscuring the view. The crash left only 1 survivor, fellow soul singer Ben Cauley.
Otis Redding’s single Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay was released 1 year after his death. It now stands as one of the most legendary soul songs of all time.
Jenni Rivera, also known as the Diva of Banda, was one of the most successful singers in the Regional Mexican genre. She earned 2 Billboard Music Awards and 4 Latin Grammy nominations. She also sold over 20 million albums worldwide.
Jenni boarded a 10-seat airplane on December 9th, 2012. She was traveling from the city of Monterrey to a concert in Mexico. The plane crashed in Toluca soon after taking off and left no survivors.
Jenni died at the age of 42. Her body was recovered and buried at the All Souls Cemetery in California.
Roberto Clemente was a successful player for the Pittsburgh Pirates known for his activism. In 1972, he traveled to Nicaragua to deliver aid to the capital city of Managua after a devastating earthquake.
Roberto brought so many supplies that the plane was 4,200lb over the recommended weight limit. It crashed on the coast of Puerto Rico almost immediately.
Roberto Clemente’s body was never recovered. He was posthumously added to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
Patsy Cline’s final performance was a benefit concert in Kansas City. She had a case of the flu but sang anyway to raise money for the family of DJ Jack “Cactus” Call after his death in a car crash that January.
Patsy boarded a plane with Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas on March 5th, 1963. Her pilot and manager Randy Hughes ignored weather warnings when they refueled in Dyersburg, Tennessee. They crashed at 6:29 PM near Camden, Tennessee.
Patsy Cline was only 30 years old when she died. Her husband Charlie Dick died in 2015. They’re survived by her 2 children, Julie and Randie.
Patsy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973. Her voice will live on in the memories of fans.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan was a Grammy-winning blues and rock guitarist. He was one of the genre’s most beloved artists until the shocking accident that ended his life and career.
Stevie took the last seat on a helicopter to avoid an hour-and-a-half-long wait. It crashed into a fog-obscured ski hill in East Troy, Wisconsin. Stevie’s booking agent Bobby Brooks and pilot Jeff Brown also lost their lives.
The crash resembles the one that took the lives of Buddy Holiday, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper Richardson. Both involved last-minute decisions to fly.
Stevie Ray Vaughn’s fans and admirers will remember him as a music icon. In fact, country singer Waylon Jennings said that he “was Texas blues.”
John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendor Jr. in Roswell, New Mexico. His father was an air force test pilot, and this led to his interest in aviation.
He took his stage name from the capital of Colorado and became a 70’s music star with hits such as Rocky Mountain High and Sunshine On My Shoulders. He had 14 gold and 8 platinum albums that sold over a million copies. The 1973 collection of his greatest hits remains one of RCA Records’ best-selling albums with over 10 million copies sold.
John was a philanthropist as well as a successful singer. He co-founded a nonprofit environmental education and research center called the Windstar Foundation.
He was arrested twice on drunk driving charges in 1993 and 1994 and failed to provide a valid medical certificate. This lead to the suspension of his pilot’s license.
John bought a new plane 1 day before the fatal crash in Santa Maria, California. It was a 10-year old experimental model known as the Long EZ. It was developed in the 1970s by Burt Rutan. This model alone was involved in at least 63 accidents since 1983, killing a total of 21 people.
John was so eager to try out his new plane that he flew without a license. He was killed instantly when his plane crashed into Monterey Bay.
Reports say that the plane began to plummet when John got distracted by the transponder. His first signal to the local tower failed to reach anyone, so he tried again. Reports state that his last words were, “do you have it now?”
Too many musical icons have been taken from this world before their time by sudden tragedies. A decision as simple as flying in a plane or helicopter can prove deadly, but the legends live on in the hearts and minds of their fans and fellow stars.
Have you ever flown in a helicopter or airplane? Let us know in the comments below.