‘American Idol’ runner-up Willie Spence dies after a car crash at 23: ‘I’m in shock’
Willie Spence, who finished in second place on Season 19 of “American Idol,” has died. He was 23.
The singing contest show gave an assertion on Spence’s demise in a recognition post on Instagram Wednesday.
“We are crushed about the death of our adored ‘American Icon’ relative, Willie Spence,” read the post, including video from his tryout. “He was a genuine ability who illuminated each room he entered and will be profoundly missed. We send our sympathies to his friends and family.”
The singer died Tuesday after hitting the rear of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 24 East near Chattanooga, according to reports by ABC News and NBC News citing a Tennessee Highway Patrol report. USA TODAY has reached out to the Tennessee Highway Patrol for comment.
Both drivers were wearing seatbelts, and the truck driver wasn’t injured, the crash report said.
Spence started his “Godlike object” venture by singing Rihanna’s “Precious stones” for his tryout that circulated in February 2021, with judge Lionel Richie referring to him as “an evident star.” From that point he reliably wowed judges and turned into the second place, losing to “Icon” champ Chayce Beckham.
During the “Idol” showdown finale Spence sang his rendition of Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up,” a song he’d wowed the judges with earlier in the season.
“We love that voice, and I love where it comes from. It comes from God, and it comes from a spirit inside that I ask I can find one day,” judge Luke Bryan said of Spence’s ability.
Bryan also honored Spence on social media Wednesday, writing, “Willie really did light up every room he walked into. He could change the mood instantly when he started singing.”
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After his “Idol” run, Spence continued to sing. He was planning on giving his first concert in London with several other special guests next month.
Tributes poured in for the singer after news of his death spread.
“Truly, i’m in shock. I’m in tears. My master Willie. One of my number one revolutionaries,” artist K. Michelle posted on Instagram Wednesday. “It’s been long periods of you adoring me and me cherishing you. I was glad to such an extent that the world got to encounter that astounding gift you have.”
Spence’s fellow “Idol” contestant Alyssa Wray made a touching tribute with a photo of both of them linked arm in arm and laughing.
“To know you was to love you. Willie loved music. Willie loved his family. Willie loved his friends. Willie loved to laugh,” Wray wrote on Instagram Wednesday. “Willie loved the Lord. And we all loved Willie. The whole WORLD loved Willie.”
Willie Spence, a former finalist on ABC’s “American Idol,” died Tuesday in a car crash, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He was 23.
A starter report from the Tennessee Thruway Watch observed that Spence’s Jeep Cherokee was driving east along Highway 24 in Marion District at around 4 p.m. Tuesday when it left the street and hit the rear of a semi truck that had maneuvered off onto the shoulder.
Spence, who was from Dunwoody, Georgia, was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, the report said.
The driver of the truck was not injured. No charges have been filed in the crash, according to the report.
Spence had come in second place in Season 19 of “American Idol,” which aired last year.
In a statement posted to the “American Idol” Twitter account, the show said it was “devastated.”
“He was a genuine ability who illuminated each room he entered and will be profoundly missed,” the assertion said. “We send our sympathies to his friends and family.”
Luke Bryan, a country music star and judge on “American Idol,” also paid tribute to Spence on Twitter.
“Willie really did light up every room he walked into,” he wrote. “He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed.”
Katharine McPhee Cultivate, who coached Spence and sang with him on the show, shared the fresh insight about his passing on her Instagram account late Tuesday night.
“Life is so uncalled for and nothing is at any point guaranteed,” she composed. “God rest your spirit Willie. It was a joy to sing with you and to know you.”