Celebrities Who Died in Plane and Helicopter Crashes
Following the deaths of Joe and Gwen Lara in a May 2021 small plane crash, see the other famous names who were lost too soon in plane and helicopter accidents
JOE & GWEN LARA
The plane, a Cessna Citation 501, crashed into Percy Priest Lake around 11 a.m. shortly after taking off from Smyrna Airport bound for Palm Beach, Florida, NBC News reported.
Capt. Joshua Sanders of Rutherford County Fire Rescue said in a news conference that authorities initially conducted searches at the crash scene by boat and in shallow water, and later performed dive operations, according to ABC News.
All seven victims were later confirmed dead by authorities. They have been identified as: Gwen Lara, a diet guru and founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church, her husband Joe Lara, an actor, Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah. The latter five victims were all from Brentwood and were members of Lara's church, according to News Channel 5.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, per reports.
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 survived by his wife Angie and their daughters, Kaylee and Taylor.
JOHN F. KENNEDY JR. & CAROLYN BESSETTE-KENNEDY
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.
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. The Learjet carrying the performer lost contact with air traffic controllers after it took off from Monterrey, Mexico, at 3:15 a.m. following Rivera's concert there. Contact was lost about 60 miles away, Mexico's transportation ministry said in a statement. It was scheduled to arrive in Toluca, outside Mexico City, before sunrise. Rivera, a native of Long Beach, California, was known as the Diva of Banda with more than 20 million albums sold worldwide and once named one of People En Español's 25 most powerful women.
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. The group had been traveling to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play a concert at Louisiana State University.
The 22-year-old R&B artist died after her plane went down after takeoff on Aug. 25, 2001. She had been traveling 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.
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.
An active philanthropist, 38-year-old Pittsburgh Pirates player Clemente was traveling 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.
Musician Denver — who, ironically, sang 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.
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!" The date of the musicians' deaths has been dubbed "the day music died."
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.
STEVIE RAY VAUGHN
Guitarist Vaughn died early the morning of Aug. 26, 1990, after his helicopter crashed into a ski hill. He had been traveling to Chicago after performing in East Troy, Wisconsin, with Eric Clapton. He was 35 years old.
Kathleen Cavendish, Marchioness of Hartington, 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.
The singer/songwriter had recently penned "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" when his plane went down in Madison, Wisconsin's Lake Monona in December of 1967. Redding and his band were just miles from the airport, en route from a series of performances in Cleveland. One of his band members survived; Redding was just 26 years old.