American Idol runner-up Willie Spence died from injuries sustained in a car crash, news outlets reported. He was 23 years old.
Georgia native and “American Idol” runner-up Willie Spence has died from injuries he sustained in a car accident, news outlets report. He was 23 years old. The accident occurred Tuesday, Oct. 11, in Tennessee, according to a report first published by Georgia news outlet DouglasNow.
Spence was taken to a hospital after the crash near Chattanooga but died from his injuries, WFXL reported, citing the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office. Additional information wasn’t immediately available.
McClatchy News reached out to the sheriff’s office on Wednesday and was awaiting a response. “American Idol” paid tribute to the late singer on Wednesday and said it was “devastated” by news of his passing.
“(Willie) was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed,” a statement posted on Instagram said. “We send our condolences to his loved ones.” Actress and “Idol” alum Katharine McPhee, who performed a duet with Spence on Season 19, also offered her condolences in a post shared on her Instagram stories. “I received very tragic news tonight,” McPhee wrote. “Sweet @williespenceofficial passed away in a car accident. … Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised. God rest your soul Willie.”
Spence, 23, rose through the ranks on “American Idol” to finish second to singer Chayce Beckham. The crooner consistently blew away judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan with his soulful performances, most notably his cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” “You came in as that diamond in the rough, and now you’re brilliant,” Perry said at the time. “And you’re just evolving.” In an Instagram post shared Tuesday, Spence posted a video of himself belting out a version of “You Are My Hiding Place” by Selah.
News of his death prompted an outpouring of tributes from family, fans and fellow musicians. “Willie Spence you were truly a gifted vessel from God!” a friend wrote on Facebook. “So humble, kind, generous, & shy yet confident on the mic! You accomplished what many dreamed of … We lost a gentle giant, but his smile and kind-hearted spirit will live on through the videos he left behind!” “What a bright spirit with an infectious personality and gorgeous voice,” another person wrote on Twitter.
“He made South Georgia so proud.” Spence’s family said they appreciate the support and have asked for privacy during this time.