On This Day…

Ricky Nelson Killed in Plane Crash

December 31, 1985

45-year-old singer and former teen idol Ricky Nelson and six others are killed when his plane crashes en-route to a New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Dallas, Texas. The pilot and co-pilot were the only survivors. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing due to a fire believed to be caused by a faulty in-cabin heater. The plane crashed through utility lines and trees to make an emergency landing in a cow pasture. It appeared that the passengers attempted to escape the cabin after landing, but were unsuccessful and died due to the fire and smoke.
The seven people killed were: Nelson, 45, his girlfriend Helen Blair, 27; bass guitarist Patrick Woodward, 35; drummer Rick Intveld, 22; keyboardist Andy Chapin, 34; guitarist Bobby Neal, 38, and road manager/soundman Donald Clark Russell, 35. The pilot and co-pilot escaped via cockpit windows.
The plane had been plagued by mechanical problems since Nelson had purchased it the previous May.
Rumors circulated after the crash claiming the fire was started by passengers freebasing cocaine, but no evidence has ever been found to substantiate these rumors.
Nelson was known for playing himself on the TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-66) and in 1957 became an instant teen idol when he played the drums on the show. His hit songs included Poor Little Fool (1958, #1) and Hello Mary Lou (1961, #1).