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Celebrity Crashes

Why is it that a passenger airliner with 190 people onboard can crash into a corn field killing everyone and it is soon forgotten. Yet a small plane plummets to earth and kills the few people onboard and 30 years later songs are being written about it. The answer is simple. Just as in the way just about anything a celebrity can do or say will be reported in the news, its is often the case when they died, especially when it is unexpected, such as in a plane crash. 
Below are some plane crashes that were unremarkable and would have soon been forgotten if not for the people who died onboard the plane. At the time, the crashes were investigated and documented, the nation (or fans) mourned the lost and the world went on. Few are missing aircraft and, in most cases, the sites are well known. In doing the research for this we came across many more "celebrities" then we expected. So consider this the "Short List."

(Note to Newspaper Journalists: You are given permission to use information from this page as a sidebar for a story but please include a link to the site.)

 Here they are, listed by date.

August 9th, 2010: Former Alaskan senator Ted Stevens (86), and at least four others were killed when their turboprop-powered de Havilland Otter, registered as N455A, crashed in the mountains 20 miles north of the town of Dillingham in southwest Alaska in the evening hours.  Also aboard were former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, and his teenage son, who both survived the crash with broken bones and other injuries. 

The plane took off at 2 pm on Monday from a GCI corporate site on Lake Nerka, heading to the Agulowak Lodge on Lake Aleknagik.  It never arrived, and was reported overdue at 7pm.  Searchers were dispatched, and the wreckage was found a half-hour later.  The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.

Stevens has previously survived a plane crash in 1978, which claimed the life of his wife, Ann.

April 10th, 2010: The President of Poland, Lech Kaczyńskia (60), was killed when the Tupolev Tu-154M of the Polish 36th Special Aviation Regiment crashed next to Smolensk-North Airport, just outside Smolensk near Pechyorsk, Smolensk Oblast, Russia, killing all 97 aboard. 

Included were scores of dignitaries in the upper and lower houses of the Polish parliament, in the government, military, and clergy of various denominations. They were on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre.

September 3rd, 2007: Millionaire and adventurer Steve Fossett (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.  A hiker found the contents of Fossett's wallet in California's Mammoth Lakes region.  Within days, searchers pinpointed the location of Fossett's crash. 

Click here to purchase items relating to the search effort (via CafePress)

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October 11, 2006: New York Yankees baseball pitcher Cory Lidle (34), and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, were killed when their Cirrus SR20 aircraft, tail number N929CD, crashed into the north side of "The Belaire" apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; it caused a fire in two apartments on the 40th and 41st floors. 

The aircraft departed from Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, New Jersey. There was no sign that Lidle's Cirrus, equipped with a Ballistic Recovery System, a parachute designed to bring the whole plane down to earth safely in case of an engine failure, was used during the crash.  No cause has yet been determined.

April 19, 2006: Famed test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield (84) died when his single-engine Cessna 210A encountered heavy thunderstorms and crashed in a heavily forested gully about 10 miles from Ranger, Georgia. He was flying from Prattville, Alabama to Herndon, Virginia, when his plane was reported missing.  The plane was found the next day by the Civil Air Patrol. Crossfield was best known for being the first pilot to break Mach 2 in 1953, as well as  flying the X-15 in 1960

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash was, "the pilot's failure to obtain updated en route weather information, which resulted in his continued instrument flight into a widespread area of severe convective activity, and the air traffic controller's failure to provide adverse weather avoidance assistance, as required by Federal Aviation Administration directives, both of which led to the airplane's encounter with a severe thunderstorm and subsequent loss of control."

March 13, 2006: Game show host Peter Tomarken (64), and his wife Kathleen, were killed when their Beechcraft Bonanza A36, N16JR, crashed a few hundred feet offshore in Santa Monica Bay during climb-out from the Santa Monica Airport in California.  According to the FAA, the aircraft had engine trouble shortly after takeoff and attempted to turn back to the airport before crashing into the bay. 

Tomarken was best known as the host of the game show Press Your Luck, and was conducting the flight on behalf of Angel Flight, a nonprofit organization providing free air transportation to facilities for those with medical needs.

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash was the failure of an mechanic to properly secure the number 2 connecting rod bolts at their attach point to the crankshaft, which resulted in the separation of the connecting rod in flight.

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June 27, 2005: Billionaire John Walton (58), the second son of the founder of Wal-Mart, was killed when his CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow ultra light crashed into terrain following a descent during the base leg of the visual approach to runway 19 at Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming.

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash resulted from the loss of airplane pitch control, the product of the pilot/owner's improper reinstallation of the rear locking collar on the elevator control torque tube.  This allowed the torque tube to move rearward during flight and loosen the elevator control cable tension, making the controls ineffective.

October 24, 2004: Ten friends and family members of Rick Hendrick,  owner of the NASCAR company Hendrick Motorsports, were killed when their Beech 200 King Air, registered as N501RH, crashed en route from Concord, North Carolina, to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.  The plane missed its first landing attempt at Blue Ridge Airport before veering off course and smashing into the mountain.  There were no survivors.

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash was the flight crew's failure to properly execute the published instrument approach procedure, including the published missed approach procedure, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.

October 25, 2002: U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone (58) of the Democratic party, along with his wife Sheila, (58), daughter Marcia and five others in a snowy northern Minnesota plane crash that injected uncertainty into congressional elections only 11 days away. They had been on their way to a funeral for the father of a state lawmaker from the town of Virginia at the time of the accident, and had been scheduled to continue on for a debate in Duluth later in the day.

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash was, "the flight crew's failure to maintain adequate airspeed, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which they did not recover."

August 25, 2001:  Singer and R&B vocalist Aaliyah (22) was killed in a plane crash when leaving the Bahamas following a video shoot.  Her Cessna 402-B crashed during takeoff.  Investigation has showed that the pilot had had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his body, as well as the airplane was overloaded.   All nine people aboard died.

October 16, 2000: Missouri governor and Senate candidate Mel Carnahan (66) was killed along with his son Roger (44)  and the governor's campaign adviser Chris Sifford when the Cessna 335 they were in crashed. The three had been en route to a rally for Carnahan's U.S. Senate campaign when the plane went down about 25 miles south of St. Louis in a hilly, wooded area.

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash was, "the pilot's failure to control the airplane while maneuvering because of spatial disorientation. Contributing to the accident were the failure of the airplane's primary attitude indicator and the adverse weather conditions, including turbulence."

February 14, 2000: Former Indy car driver Tony Lee Bettenhausen Jr. (48), youngest son of a famous auto racing family, his wife Shirley, and two associates died in a private plane crash on a Kentucky farm 30 miles from Lexington. The likely cause of the accident was ice on the wings and the inexperience of the pilot.  His Beech 58 plunged thousands of feet, crashed, and burned.

The NTSB concluded the likely cause of the crash was, "the pilot's failure to maintain airspeed during a climb, which resulted in a loss of aircraft control."

October 25, 1999: Professional Golfer Payne Stewart died when his Learjet Model 35 crashed near Aberdeen, South Dakota. The airplane departed Orlando, Florida, for Dallas, Texas. Radio contact with the flight was lost north of Gainesville, Florida.

The airplane was intercepted by several Air Force and Air National Guard aircraft as it proceeded northwest-bound. The military pilots in a position to observe the accident airplane at close range stated (in interviews or via radio transmissions) that the forward windshields of the Learjet seemed to be frosted or covered with condensation. The military pilots could not see into the cabin. The military pilots observed the airplane depart controlled flight and spiral to the ground, impacting an open field. All six were killed.  The cause was the explosive decompression of the aircraft's cabin, resulting in the loss of consciousness for the occupants.

July 16, 1999: John F. Kennedy Jr. (38), his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy (35), and her elder sister Lauren Bessette (37) were killed when their Piper Saratoga II HP crashed into the ocean off Martha's Vineyard. Their crash may have been caused by John's inexperience in flying with only instruments in a twilight haze over the ocean. They had been on their way to a family wedding.

October 12, 1997: Singer John Denver (53) died when his experimental single-engine Rutan Long- EZ plane crashed near Monterey, California. 

The crash occurred when Denver inadvertently pressed down on the plane's right rudder pedal while trying to switch fuel tanks by reaching for the fuel selector switch behind him. The plane had been modified to place the fuel selector switch behind the pilot rather than between his legs.

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April 3, 1996: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown (55) died along with 34 other people when the Air Force CT-43 "Bobcat" passenger plane carrying the group on a trip crashed into a mountainside while approaching the Dubrovnik airport in Croatia during heavy rain and poor visibility.  The Air Force quickly determined the tragic event to be an accident due to three major causes: command mistakes, errors by the flight crew, and outdated navigation equipment at the Dubrovnik civilian airport, despite rumored evidence indicating a potential conspiracy.

July 12,1993:  NASCAR driver Davey Allison (32) was tragically injured in a crash while trying to land his Hughes 369HS helicopter at Talladega Super Speedway, Alabama, and died the next day.   The official cause of the crash was the pilot's poor decision to land downwind in a confined area, surrounded by high obstructions, and his failure to properly compensate for the tailwind condition, coupled with the pilot's lack of experience in the airframe.  In 1987, Davey Allison became the first NASCAR Winston Cup Series rookie to ever qualify on the front row for a Daytona 500.

April 1, 1993: NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki (39) died in the crash of the Hooters corporate Fairchild SA227-TT jet near Blountville, Tenn., while enroute to the Bristol Motor Speedway.  Kulwicki was the 1992 Winston Cup series champion. The crash was attributed to the failure of the pilot to follow procedures concerning use of the engine inlet anti-ice system and/or continuous ignition while operating in icing conditions, which resulted in probable ice ingestion and loss of engine power; and the pilot's failure to maintain sufficient airspeed while coping with the engine problem, which resulted in a stall.  Three others died in the crash.  

October 25, 1991: Rock promoter Bill Graham (60), famous for his rock 'n roll shows at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium and New York City's Fillmore East, died when his Bell 206B helicopter hit an electrical transmission tower and crashed near Vallejo, California. Two others, helicopter pilot Steve Kahn and girlfriend Melissa Gold, were killed in the crash, which occurred during heavy rain and high winds

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March 16, 1991: Seven band members of singer Reba McEntire, and her manager died in the crash of their Hawker Siddeley DH.125-1A/522 near San Diego, Calif.  A rushed flight schedule, combined with improper flight planning resulting in a controlled impact into mountainous terrain, killing all ten aboard.  This mishap was the imprimis for her following album, For My Broken Heart.

Members of the band aboard the plane were: Chris Austin, Kirk Cappello, Joey Cigainero, Paula Kaye Evans, Terry Jackson, Michael Thomas, and Tony Saputo.

March 9, 1991: Former baseball player Jim Hardin, who had been a pitcher for the Orioles, the Yankees, and the Braves, died when his Beech 35-C33A crashed in Key West, Florida.  While in flight, the propeller of his aircraft failed from fatigue, and he crashed while performing an emergency landing.

August 27, 1990: Blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan (35) was killed in a helicopter crash near East Troy, Wisconsin. Four helicopters were being used to night transport a concert group. The helicopter in question, a Bell BHT-206-B Helicopter, remained at a lower altitude and crashed into terrain soon after taking off into fog.  Failure of the pilot to attain adequate altitude before flying over rising terrain resulted in the deaths of all five aboard

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March 21, 1987: Singer and actor Dean Paul ("Dino") Martin (35), son of Dean Martin and also a Captain in the California Air National Guard, along with his Weapons System Officer, Captain Ramon Ortiz, both were killed in the crash of their F-4C Phantom fighter jet shortly after takeoff from March Air Force Base in southern California. 

The wreckage was discovered four days later near the summit of Mount San Gorgonio, on the side of a granite cliff.  It was estimated that their aircraft hit the cliff at over 560 MPH during the occurrence of a high-speed "maximum performance" climb.

October 22, 1986: WNBC 66AM radio traffic reporter Jane Dornacker (38) was killed, and her pilot, Bill Pate, was injured when the main rotor of their helicopter, an Enstrom F-28F, seized and the aircraft sunk into the waters of the Hudson River near 45th St. in Manhattan.  In the subsequent investigation, the NTSB found that the clutch that was installed in the helicopter was a military surplus part which was not intended for use in a civil aircraft. 

She was the lead singer of the rock group Leila And The Snakes, as well as an actress; she appeared in the movie The Right Stuff as Nurse Murch.

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December 31, 1985: Rock & roll singer Rick Nelson (45), five members of his Stone Canyon band, and his fiancée were killed when a fire broke out on board a DC-3 taking them to a New Year's Eve performance in Dallas, Texas. Two people survived the crash landing near DeKalb, Texas. The fire was caused by a malfunctioning heater.

Nelson was first known as the son of Ozzie and Harriet in their TV show of the late 1950s. He later became famous as the singer of such hits as “Travelin' Man” and “Garden Party.” 

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August 25, 1985: Samantha Smith (13), her father, and six others were killed when their Bar Harbor Airlines Beechcraft 99 missed the runway at the Lewiston-Auburn Regional Airport in Auburn, Maine, by 200 yards and crashed.

Samantha was made famous for being the girl who wrote a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov regarding a possible nuclear war, and received an invitation to visit Russia.  She was returning home after filming an episode of a television series named "Lime Street"

September 16, 1985: Aerobatic stunt pilot Art Scholl disappeared in his Pitts S-2A off the coast of southern California, while filming aerial scenes for the movie, "Top Gun"

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September 2, 1983: George Cogar has been missing since his plane, a Brittan Norman Islander, went down in British Columbia.  George Cogar was instrumental in the founding of Mohawk Data Sciences Corporation during the 1960s.  He left MDS and founded the Cogar Corporation, designing and manufacturing computer chips.  He also invented the "intelligent terminal," an early forerunner of the modern personal computer.

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June 2, 1983: George Curtis Mathes Jr., 54, the chairman of the Curtis Mathes Corporation, and Stan Rogers, 33, a Canadian folk singer, died along with twenty-one other passengers a fire aboard Air Canada Flight 797.  The McDonnell Douglas DC-9, registered as C-FTLU, caught fire near the rear lavatory, and was forced to make an emergency landing in Cincinnati while flying from Dallas to Ottawa and Montreal.

The accident resulted in federal requirements that all aircraft be outfitted with smoke detectors in their lavatories.

March 19,1982: Randy Rhoads (25), the lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, died when the Beech Bonanza F35 he was aboard crashed into a house after a wing clipped Ozzy Osbourne's tour bus. All 3 aboard were killed as a result of the pilot attempting to buzz the bus.

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July 23, 1982: Actor Vic Morrow (57) and two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Rene Chen, were killed when a Bell UH-1B Huey helicopter landed on them during the filming of the movie Twilight Zone. The helicopter was send out of control when its tail rotor was hit by an explosive charge from the special effects during the filming of a scene.

September 4, 1979: Zachary Taylor Reynolds, the grandson of tobacco tycoon R.J. Reynolds, former National Pistol shooting Champion,  and aerobatic pilot, died along with 2 other passengers and a pilot, when the Cessna 172, registered as N738FR, crashed near Mount Airy, North Carolina, while performing aerobatic maneuvers.  The 19-year-old pilot, Gary Scott Cermak, had just received his pilot's certificate, and wanted to fly with Reynolds over the Reynolds estate in a neighboring county.

The National Transportation Safety Board the probable cause being that the pilot attempted maneuvers beyond his experience and ability and misjudged altitude and clearance. Investigators said that both Cermak and Reynolds were trying to fly the plane when it crashed.

August 2, 1979: Baseball player Thurman Munson (32) died when his twin-engine Cessna Citation jet fell 1000 feet short of the runway while practicing touch-and-go landings at the Akron-Canton airfield and tragically burst into flames. Two others were injured.  Munson, the catcher for the New York Yankees, was a seven-time All-Star, the 1976 MVP, and the 1970 rookie of the year

June 28, 1979: Philippe Cousteau (35), son of Jacques Cousteau, was killed when his Catalina PBY-6A airplane crashed as he was landing. His plane had just been repaired when he took it out for a flight. As he landed, one of the plane's propeller's sheared off, cut through the cockpit, and killed Cousteau.

April 16, 1978: On his way home from scouting movie locations up north, movie stunt pilot Frank Tallman III died when his Piper Aztec, registered N5641Y, crashed near the top of Trabuco Canyon in a violent rainstorm in the Santa Ana Mountains. He had been en route from Santa Monica, California to Phoenix, Arizona at the time of the crash.

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October 20, 1977: The Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.  Killed lead singer and song writer Ronnie VanZant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Also killed were pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. 

According to the NTSB report, the pilots miscalculated the amount of fuel provided in Lakeland, Florida on October 18, 1977. When they refueled in Greenville, South Carolina on the 20th, they compounded this error by believing they had more fuel than they really did. The airplane was also experiencing some mechanical difficulties which required the pilots to operate the right engine in the "auto-rich" position which burned fuel at an excessive rate. The combination of these problems resulted in nearly complete fuel exhaustion.

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August 1, 1977: Francis Gary Powers (48), the American pilot of a U-2 spy plane shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, and his cameraman were killed when his Bell 206 Jetranger helicopter crashed in Balboa Park on the way back from covering a brush fire. At the time, he was a helicopter pilot for KNBC television in Los Angeles, California.

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September 20, 1973: Rock singer Jim Croce (30), members of his company (accompanist Maurice Muehleisen, manager Dennis Rast, and comedian George Stevens), and the pilot died when their chartered Beechcraft E18S crashed while taking off from the Natchitoches, Louisiana airport. The plane hit a tree when it failed to gain enough altitude on takeoff. Croce was famous for his rock hit, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”

December 31, 1972: Baseball great Roberto Clemente (38) and three others were killed when their overloaded Douglas DC-7CF plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off San Juan, Puerto Rico, on its way to providing relief supplies to the victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake.

December 8, 1972:  The wife of E. Howard Hunt, Dorothy Hunt, is killed aboard United Airlines Flight 533 when the Boeing 737 crashed near Midway Field in Chicago, Ill, along with 39 other passengers (and the pilot, first, and second officers). Also killed is Veronica Kuculich, and her daughter Theresa,  when the plane destroys the Kuculich residence at 3722 70th Place in Chicago.  Eighteen aboard survive in crash. Dorothy Hunt's purse was found to contain $10,585 in cash, purported to be connected to President Richard Nixon's alleged 'slush fund', as E. Howard Hunt had been connected to the Watergate break-in. The NTSB, FBI, and Congress investigated the crash for sabotage but found nothing, blaming the crash on the flight crew's failure to activate wing spoilers.  

October 16, 1972: Hale Boggs, the House Majority Leader, along with Alaska congressman Nick Begich, and two others disappeared in their Cessna 310 flying through the Chugach Mountain range in southeast Alaska.

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May 28, 1971: World War II war hero and actor Audie Murphy (46) was killed along with five others when their private Aero Commander 680 plane crashed into the side of a mountain near Roanoke, Virginia. They had been flying into a heavy fog at the time of the crash.

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August 31, 1969: Rocky Marciano (45), the former heavyweight champion boxer, and two others died in the crash of a Cessna 172H airplane near Newton, Iowa. It had been a dark and stormy night. He was one day short of celebrating his 46th birthday.

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March 27, 1968: The first man in space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, was killed in the crash of his MiG-15UTI while on a training mission east of Moscow, Russia. His body apparently was found two hours later frozen and rumored to be reeking of alcohol.

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December 10, 1967: Rock 'n roll singer Otis Redding (26) and four members of his Bar-Kays band were killed when their Beechcraft H18 plane crashed in icy Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin, on a foggy night.

Redding is best known for his hit, “Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay,” which was released after his death. Redding had recorded the song just three days earlier and considered the song unfinished, having whistled the tune of one verse for which he intended to compose lyrics later.

July 24, 1966: Professional Golfer Tony Lema (32), his wife, the pilot and co-pilot, die in the crash of their Beech H50 on his way to a golf outing in Joliet, Ill., for a small tournament at golf course that straddled the Indiana-Illinois state line. He had been scheduled to play in a one-day tournament on that very course the next day.. The twin-engine plane began experiencing mechanical trouble with the engine.  The pilot frantically sought an open field in which to crash land the plane, but the plane disintegrated on impact, coming to rest in a small pond on the golf course.  He died with $23,000 in his briefcase, mostly in the form of uncashed tournament checks dating back six months.

July 8, 1965: Stunt pilot Albert “Paul” Mantz (62) was killed when his Phoenix P-1 plane broke apart on landing while filming the movie, "The Flight of the Phoenix".

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July 31, 1964: Country Singer Jim "Gentleman" Reeves (39) was killed when of his Beechcraft 35 Debonair he was piloting crashed during a thunderstorm near Nashville, Tennessee. His business partner and manager Dean Manuel (who was also the pianist in Reeves' backing group) was also killed in the crash 

February 13, 1964: Professional baseball player Kenneth Hubbs (22), and his friend Dennis Dayle, both died when their Cessna 172D crashed during a snowstorm near Provo, Utah.  He was the second-basemen for the Chicago Cubs, and garnered 'Rookie of the Year' in 1962.  He had earned his pilot's license only two weeks earlier, and was not rated for instrument flight.

March 5, 1963: Patsy Cline (30), Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cline's manager were killed when their Piper PA-24 Comanche plane crashed near Camden, Tennessee, in adverse weather conditions. Cline was famous for her country hit, “Crazy.” Copas and Hawkins were Grand Ole Opry stars.

September 17, 1961: United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld (56) died, along with 15 others, in the crash of the Douglas DC-6B he is aboard on approach to the airport near Ndola in the African nation of Zambia.  About ten miles from the runway, the aircraft descended too low, and impacted the jungle below. 

The findings of the UN investigation team afterwards stated: "It was strongly urged that the Commission should not conclude that the accident was due to pilot error. Reasons have been given for saying that other suggested causes were not really possible. Reasons have also been given for concluding that the approach was made by a visual descent procedure in which the aircraft was brought too low. It could not be said whether that came about as a result of inattention to the altimeters or misreading of them. The Commission felt it must conclude that the aircraft was allowed, by the pilots, to descend too low. In so doing it struck trees and crashed.

However, rumors persist about this accident, alleging that the victims may have been shot prior to the crash or that a bomb onboard exploded.

February 3, 1959: The Day The Music Died. Rock Hall of Famers Buddy Holly (22), the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) (29), and Ritchie Valens (18) as well as the pilot Roger Peterson died when their Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed just outside Clear Lake, Iowa, during a stormy winter night. Holly was famous for many hits including “Peggy Sue.” The Big Bopper had one big hit, “Chantilly Lace,” and Valens was best known for his hit, “La Bamba.”  

March 22, 1958: Mike Todd, his biographer Art Cohn, the pilot, and co-pilot were killed when his Lockheed Lodestar private plane, “The Lucky Liz,” named after Todd's wife, Elizabeth Taylor, crashed in bad weather in the Zuni Mountains of New Mexico. During their flight, ice had developed on their wings. The ice put too heavy a load on the engines, thus causing the crash. Todd had been on his way from Burbank to New York City to attend a Friars Club award meeting to receive the Showman of the Year award.

October 28, 1949: World champion middleweight boxer Marcellin "Marcel" Cerdan & French violinist Ginette Neveu were killed when an Air France Lockheed L-749 Constellation, registered as F-BAZN, crashed into Monte Redondo on São Miguel Island in the Azores islands.  All 11 crew members and 37 passengers on board died when the plane impacted while approaching the intermediate stop airport at Santa Maria.

October 1, 1949: Pop singer Buddy Clark, died from injuries he sustained when the light plane he was in crashed on a street in Los Angeles, California. Some of Clark's famous recordings include “I'll Dance at Your Wedding,” “A Dreamer's Holiday,” and especially “Linda.”

May 13, 1948: Kathleen Kennedy Cavendish (28), the sister of President John Kennedy, died when the de Havilland Dove 1 she was aboard crashing into Mount Coron, in France, killing all 10 aboard.  Kathleen had been flying to a family reunion on the Riviera.

January 26, 1947: American singer and actress Grace Moore boarded a KLM DC-3, registered as PH-TCR, in Copenhagen, Denmark, to fly to Stockholm, Sweden. The aircraft taxied out to the runway and was cleared to takeoff. The aircraft rotated and climbed to an altitude of about 150 feet, then stalled, crashing to the ground, and exploded.

Among the other 21 plane crash victims was Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, who was at the time second in line to the Swedish throne.  He returning to Stockholm from a hunting trip and visit to Crown Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands.

The accident investigation showed that the crash had been caused by a forgotten gust lock on the plane's elevator.

December 15, 1944: Band leader Glenn Miller, disappears aboard a Norseman UC-64 departing from Twinwood Field in England enroute to Paris. The most popular theory is his aircraft was accidentally bombed in midair by returning bombers.  However, other theories persist... 

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August 12, 1944: Joseph P. Kennedy (29), eldest brother of President John F. Kennedy, died when he was flying a B-24 loaded with explosives to be guided via remote control to crash into the German missile site at Mimoyecques, France.  However, the explosives detonated early in the air over Blytheburgh, England.

July 31, 1944: Antoine de Saint-Exupery (44), French author of The Little Prince, died when his P-38 Lightning disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea during World War II. At the time, he was flying for the U.S. Air Force as a reconnaissance pilot photographing German troop positions in the French Alps.

In 2000, a diver found the wreckage of St. Exupery's plane on the seafloor off Marseille, France.  French researchers confirmed the find in April of 2004. 

The recovered wreckage did not show any traces of aerial combat, and the researchers' assumptions are that the crash was caused by a technical failure in both engines or in the oxygen supply, or possibly that St. Exupery committed suicide.

June 1, 1943: British actor Leslie Howard (42), and sixteen others, were killed when their KLM Royal Dutch Airlines DC-3, flying as BOAC Flight 777,  was attacked by eight German Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88s, and shot down over the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France during World War II.

He is best known by international audiences as Ashley Wilkes in the film Gone with the Wind.

January 16, 1942: Actress Carole Lombard (33), her mother, her press agent, and 19 other people were killed when their Trans Continental & Western DC-3 airplane crashed near Las Vegas, Nevada, as they were returning from a war-bond promotion tour. Carole's death was the first war-related female casualty that the U.S. suffered during World War II.  The plane clipped a rocky ledge on Mt. Potosi, flipped into the face of a cliff, and exploded. Carole, best known for such comedies as Nothing Sacred, was married to Clark Gable.

She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty in WWII.

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December 11, 1941: John Gillespie Magee, Jr. (19), American pilot and poet, was killed when his VZ-H Spitfire V collided with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield during World War II. The mid-air collision occurred over the village of Roxholm, England. Earlier that year on September 3rd, Magee flew to 30,000 feet during a test flight in a newer model of the Spitfire V. As he orbited and climbed upward, he was struck with the inspiration of his famous poem “High Flight” where he wrote of touching the face of God.

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July 2, 1937: Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared aboard her Lockheed 10E "Electra" on one of the final legs of her 'around-the-world' flight.  While flying to Howland Island in the south Pacific, the aircraft became lost, and believed to be lost at sea, despite the largest search in naval history. 

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August 15, 1935: On a flight to the Orient, humorist Will Rogers (56) and aviator Wiley Post (37) died when their Lockheed Orion-Explorer plane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, after taking off in bad weather.

June 24, 1934: Singer Carlos Gardel (44) died when the Ford Trimotorhe was aboard, registered to "Servicio Aereo Columbiano" as F-31, collided with another Trimotor at Olaya Herrera Airfield in Medellín, Columbia, along with sixteen others. One plane was barely off the ground, and the one was still on the ground at the airport when the collison occurred, possibly the product of a rivalry among the two pilots.

Gardel was famous for his tangos, including "Por Una Cabeza", a popular song featured in several films and television series.

March 31, 1931: Football coach Knute Rockne (43) died in the crash of a commercial Fokker F-10A Tri-motor flight.  He had coached for the Fighting Irish football team of Notre Dame, and in the 13 years he coached, the team won 105 games, lost 12, tied 5, and had 6 National Championships.  One of the plane's wings separated in flight after penetrating a rainstorm and the aircraft crashed into a wheat field near Bazaar, Kansas. A structural design flaw caused wing-aileron flutter which led to the wing separation. All 8 aboard killed.

Also of note: At least 18 U.S. senators and members of Congress have died in plane crashes. Among them were Senator John Heinz, R-Pa., and former Senator John Tower, R-Texas, who died in unrelated plane accidents within a day of each other in April 1991.


If there are any you think should be added to the list, please email us.



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