Three musicians from the icon American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, along with three other people, are killed in a horrific plane crash on the Louisiana-Mississippi border on this day in history, October 20, 1977.
Lead singer and founder Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines, were all killed.
The crash of the Convair CV-240 small passenger plane also claimed the lives of assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray.
Twenty people survived.
“The accident killed one of the great American musicians,” Jane Odom, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s director of security and a survivor of the crash, told Fox News Digital.
“It took me a dear friend and lifelong fishing companion.”
Odom grew up with Van Zant and the other founding members of the band in Jacksonville, Florida.
The plane ran out of fuel at about 10,000 feet and crashed violently into a wooded area.
Odom helped lead a vigil to Van Zant and the other victims last night near the town of Gilesburg, Mississippi. A memorial was erected near the accident site in 2019.
Odom was thrown from the plane and later found by rescuers under one of the wings, seriously injured.
He said he had suffered “a huge hole in his head from flying in the fuselage, a broken neck, broken ribs and 45 years of pain”.
Only after Odom was discharged from the hospital did he learn that Van Zant and the others had died.
“The only reason so many survived is because there was no fuel left in the plane. So there was no fire,” Odom said.
He said guitarist Gaines had just joined the band a year earlier, at the request of his sister Cassie, a singer who was also killed in the accident.
“He would have been a star, a rose that never bloomed,” said Odom.
Lynyrd Skynyrd remains one of the biggest acts in music history and arguably the best American rock band of all time.
The band toured for decades with Jonny Van Zant, the founder’s younger brother, lead vocals. They largely play songs first written and performed by Ronnie van Zant in half a century – a testament to his enduring legacy in rock history.
“Sweet Home Alabama,” one of the band’s signature songs, an ode to “Southland,” has nearly a billion plays on Spotify, nearly 50 years after it was recorded in 1974.
The band’s signature tune, “Free Bird,” from Lynnard Skynyrd’s 1973 debut album, is epic rock. The song’s influence extended beyond music and integrated himself into the broader pop culture.
It was heard in “Forrest Gump” while a video of the band performing the song appeared in Auckland in July 1977, spawning tens of millions of plays on YouTube.
“The final rock guitar epic was a humble birth, with Skynyrd’s forward Ronnie Van Zant scribbling about keeping love alive on tour,” said a Rolling Stone article for Free Bird. The publication included the tune in its 2021 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The band’s plane was bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, from Greenville, South CarolinaVan Zant concluded the show with “Free Bird”.
Never performed again.
“Old Lynyrd Skynyrd still sells a few million albums a year,” Odom said.
“Elvis, the Beatles, and Lynnard Skynyrd. What do you think of that for my old fishing friend?”