On This Day…

John Denver Killed in Plane Crash

October 12, 1997

Singer John Denver is killed when his small aircraft he was piloting crashed off the coast of California. The cause of the accident was Denver’s inability to switch fuel tanks while in flight. Denver had purchased the plane from an individual who built it from a kit. The builder had placed the fuel switch behind the pilot, as opposed to its intended position between the pilot’s legs. This prevented the pilot from switching tanks while strapped in and required the pilot to twist their body 90° to reach the switch. Denver apparently lost control while trying to switch fuel tanks and crashed. Even though Denver was aware of the switch location and that he was low on fuel in his primary tank, he chose to fly anyway, believing he could fly on autopilot while switching tanks.
Denver was not legally permitted to fly at the time due to previous drunk driving arrests. However, he had no alcohol in his system at the time of the accident.
He is known for his songs, Rocky Mountain High (1972), Thank God I’m A Country Boy (1975, #1), and he wrote Leaving On A Jet Plane (1969).