The late, great Aaliyah was set to hit Beyoncé-levels of fame and success if not for her untimely death 20 years ago, and now new details around the incident have made it seem even more tragic in hindsight.
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On August 25, 2001, the ultra talented R&B star died aged 22 in a plane crash in the Bahamas, along with nine other people, after she had just finished filming the video to single ‘Rock The Boat’.
The pilot was later found to have had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his body, and was not qualified to fly the plane. It also transpired that the aircraft was overloaded.
Local Bahamian Kingsley Russell, who was 13 at the time, worked with his family who ran a taxi and hospitality business in the Abaco Islands. He worked with Aaliyah’s team as her baggage handler and claims that when she saw the plane, Aaliyah refused to get on and went to sleep in the back of a taxi.
Kingsley claims that Aaliyah’s team carried her to the plane while she was asleep, despite the pilot and baggage handlers initially saying there was too much cargo in the plane to fly.
Kingsley provides the following quote in new book ‘Baby Girl: Better Known As Aaliyah’:
They took her out of the van; she didn’t even know she was getting boarded on a plane.
She went on the airplane asleep.
Russell claims that, while Aaliyah slept, there were hours of arguments about whether the plane should fly, before the pilot finally agreed to make the trip. The plane was in the air for less than a minute before it crashed.
The book’s author, music journalist Kathy Iandoli, told The Daily Beast:
I remember when Aaliyah passed away, I was really upset.
The story kept saying that she was adamant about getting on the plane. I was almost upset with her. Why did you want to get on that plane so badly?
In learning that she did not want to get on the plane, for someone like myself and so many other people, I think that’s closure for us. It’s an unfortunate closure… but I needed to hear she didn’t want to get on that plane; I needed to know that. The person who I thought had the most common sense in the world had common sense to not get on the plane. The fact that she was so adamant, staying in the cab, refusing — these are things we never knew.
The only thing I’ve taken with me is that after 20 years, I can finally say that Aaliyah didn’t want to get on the plane. That makes me feel a little better, but not much. This didn’t have to happen. She should still be here, and I think that’s the saddest part about it. She deserved better.
Can’t argue with that really. If Aaliyah hadn’t been sleeping, she probably never would have got on that plane. After the tragedy, her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the aircraft’s operator, Blackhawk International Airways. It was settled out of court.
It’s crazy to think how big a superstar Aaliyah would’ve become after already having multiple mainstream hits at 22. The type of R&B/trap music that was released after her death really feels like it was inspired by Aaliyah, and her collaborations with Timbaland. Apparently she was about to work with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails shortly before she died too. Who knows what kind of magic they would have come up with? Aaliyah was really about to take R&B into all these interesting new directions.
Well anyway, RIP Aaliyah and who knows, maybe we’ll finally get to hear some of her unreleased material some day. Although she’s already got more than enough classic tunes to keep her legacy alive forever.
For the time Aaliyah’s family issued a warning over ‘inappropriate’ treatment of her Madame Tussauds statue, click HERE. What’s wrong with some people?