The lead singer of the band Ronnie Van Zant, vocalist and guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassier Gaines, and the managing crew including assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, died in the crash.
The pilot of the plane was Walter McCreary, who also perished along with his co-pilot Willian Gray; twenty other passengers, however, survived the crash.
On the day of the crash, a mere three days after the release of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Street Survivors, the band decided to charter a Convair CV-240.
However, it did not contain enough fuel for the entire journey and came down in South Carolina. The band was coming back from a performance at Greenville Memorial Auditorium, and members were on their way to LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Realizing the worst nightmare of a pilot, the pilot of the CV-240 attempted to land the plane on small airstrip but the plane could not make it and crashed in the woods near Gillsburg, Mississippi.
Three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd died in the impact; however, Cassie Gaines did survive the initial crash but died of excessive bleeding a while afterwards.
The Keyboardist of the band, Billy Powell, survived the crash with gruesome injuries and ever since the crash has provided somewhat a controversial account of the event.
Powell’s nose nearly came off of his face as he suffered severe facial injuries along with deep lacerations to his right knee and other spinal injuries.
Powell has since been a center of the controversy that rose from his account of the incident.
According to Powell, Cassie Gaines’ final moments were particularly painful as she bled to death in his arms and that her throat had been cut from ear to ear, which gave more indications of execution than an accident.
In an interview on VH1 Behind The Music Special for Lynyrd Skynrd, Powell made these rather lurid claims; also, saying that Ronnie Van Zant’s head was found smashed with a heavy object.
Powell’s claims have been disputed by both Judy Van Zant Jenness and Artimus Pyle as outrageous and ridiculous; however, an autopsy report that was posted on band’s website in 1998 in order to set the record straight, ironically confirmed Powell’s account of how the pair had died in the crash.
Another strange thing that came out of the crash was the statement by another member of The Honkettes JoJo Billingsley.
Billingsley was not on the doomed plane as she was home sick but had been planning to join the band in Little Rock, Arkansas three days later.
Billingsley later claimed that she had a dream in which she saw the plane crash and death of her friends and that she instantly rang and begged Allen Collins on the telephone to avoid using Convair.
After the crash, a team of NTSB officials arrived at the site of the accident and thoroughly inspected every aspect and piece of the debris.
The team tested the magnetos of the right engine and did not find any anomaly and concluded that it did function as normal.
The statement said that there were no mechanical or electrical discrepancies spotted during the examination of the right magneto.
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