'American Idol' runner-up Willie Spence dead at age 23 after car crash in Tennessee
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 10/12/2022
American Idol alum Willie Spence has reportedly passed away in a tragic manner.
The singer and Douglas, GA, native -- who finished as the runner-up on American Idol's nineteenth season -- died at the young age of 23, according to a Tuesday report by local news outlet Douglas Now.
Willie reportedly died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Tennessee.
Douglas Now extended their condolences to Willie's family, friends and fans and wrote in its report, "He was an extraordinary talent and a ray of light to millions across the world. He will be missed."
A family source later confirmed Willie's death to TMZ.
The source said Willie had a flat tire on Tuesday, fixed it, and resumed his road trip from Tennessee to Atlanta. However, Willie reportedly crashed into a semitruck that was parked on the side of the road.
NBC News reported that the crash occurred at around 4PM on Tuesday in Marion County in East Tennessee.
Willie's 2019 Jeep Cherokee reportedly "left the roadway" and collided with the back of a tractor trailer that was stopped on the interstate. Willie and the 68-year-old driver were both wearing seatbelts.
A representative for the Tennessee Highway Patrol said the agency is investigating the incident and why Willie's car strayed from the highway.
Just hours before the accident, Willie posted a video of himself singing beautifully on social media.
The American Idol family and fans around the world have expressed their grief over this news.
"I received very tragic news tonight. Sweet [Willie] passed away in a car accident. Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised," she wrote. "God rest your soul, Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you."
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American Idol producer Randall Emmett also reportedly wrote, "I was lucky to have him sing for me live at my home and other events. I will miss you, my friend. I know you touched so many of us."
Willie claimed second place behind winner Chayce Beckham on American Idol's 2021 season.