On This Day…

Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash

October 20, 1977

Six people die, including three members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, when their chartered plane runs out of fuel and crashes in Mississippi. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray were killed on impact. Twenty people survived the crash. The fuel gauge in the plane was known to malfunction and the pilots had neglected to manually check the tanks before taking off. Drummer Artimus Pyle survived the crash and went looking for help and found a farmhouse. When the farmer saw a bloody Pyle coming towards him, he fired a warning shot that hit Pyle in the shoulder. After Pyle explained he was coming from a plane crash, the farmer helped him inside and sent for help.
Just three months earlier, the band Aerosmith had considered using the same plane for touring, but rejected it because, while inspecting the plane, they saw the pilots drinking Jack Daniels and felt both the plane and its crew were not up to standards. This was going to be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s last flight on the plane, as they felt the 30-year-old plane was too old and were planning on upgrading after that flight.