Aaliyah Dana Haughton was an American recording artist. She died on August 25, 2001 in a plane crash in The Bahamas and the plane's pilot Luis Morales III was later found to have a history of offenses.

Background Edit

On August 21, 2001, Aaliyah appeared on BET's 106 & Park and announced the music video for the single "Rock the Boat" would start being shot the following day, as well as stating that the video would be released in early September in time for back to school. Over the next few days, she filmed the music video for "Rock the Boat".

Plane crash Edit

On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah and various members of the record company boarded a twin-engine Cessna 402B at the Marsh Harbor Airport in Abaco Islands, The Bahamas, to travel to the Opa-locka Airport in Florida after completing the music video for "Rock the Boat". She was killed instantly when the plane exploded on impact just 200 feet beyond the end of a runway at Marsh Harbor Airport. Others killed in the crash included Aaliyah's makeup artist Eric Foreman and Virgin Records representative Douglas Kratz among others.[1]

Witness George Thomas described the plane as having slowly climbed to about 50 feet when it veered to the left, plummeted nose-first into a swamp and bursted into flames."It didn't look like anyone could survive that crash," Thomas said. "The nose was broken right off and the fuselage was crumpled and there was TV equipment and luggage scattered about." Thomas described the conditions of some of the bodies. "Some bodies were so badly disfigured, you couldn't identify them."[2] Anthony Dodd was the only person to survive the plane crash, but died at a hospital later on.

It was said by Lewis Key, a veteran Bahamian charter pilot, that Morales argued with the passengers over the weight of their equipment and the crew itself being too large for the plane to carry. "He tried to convince them the plane was overloaded, but they insisted they had chartered the plane and they had to be in Miami Saturday night." Morales eventually gave in and the plane took off for the fatal flight.[2] Aaliyah and the members of the recording company had hoped to return to Florida.[3] Findings from an inquest conducted by the coroner's office in The Bahamas stated that Aaliyah suffered from "severe burns and a blow to the head" along with severe shock and a weak heart.[4] It was theorized by the coroner that she went into such a state of shock, even if she had survived the crash, her recovery would have been nearly impossible.

The investigation into the cause of the crash determined that the plane was overweight by 700 pounds and was carrying one excess passenger, according to its certification. The National Transportation Safety Board report stated "the airplane was seen lifting off the runway, and then nose down, impacting in a marsh on the south side of the departure end of runway 27 and then exploding in flames."[5]

The day of the crash was the pilot, Luis Morales III's first official day with Blackhawk International Airways. Morales was not registered with the FAA to fly for Blackhawk. As a result of the accident, Aaliyah's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit and the lawsuit was settled in an undisclosed amount. An autopsy on Morales's body revealed he had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system. Just twelve days before the crash, Morales was in a Florida courtroom pleading no contest to possessing crack cocaine, trafficking stolen airplane parts, theft and driving with a suspended license.[6] Aaliyah had been due in New York on that year's labor day and was supposed to stay until September 6, 2001 in order for her to act as a presenter at the MTV Music Awards.

Funeral Edit

Her funeral was held on August 31, 2001. It took place at the St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Manhattan. Her body, which was set in a silver casket, was carried in a glass hearse and drawn by a horse. 800 mourners were estimated to be in attendance at the procession. Among those in attendance were Missy Elliot, Timbaland, Gladys Knight, Lil' Kim and Sean Combs. Following the service, 22 white doves were released to symbolize each year of Aaliyah's life. She was inferred in a private room at the end of a corridor in the Rosewood Mausoleum at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. A vigil was held at Detroit High School, where Aaliyah had graduated four years prior.

Lawsuit Edit

In May 2002, eight months after Aaliyah died, her parents filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Virgin Records and the operators of the flight on which their daughter died. They claimed both were negligent and blamed the parties for not preventing the crash that killed Aaliyah and the rest of the passengers aboard the plane she died on. The suit alleged that the plane (Cessna 402-B) was the wrong type of aircraft for the charter flight to Florida and claimed Morales, the pilot of the plane, was not qualified to fly it. The Haughtons sought unspecified damages and were joined in filing lawsuits by families of two other crash victims.[7] The lawsuit was settled in September 2003 and attorneys for Aaliyah's parents filed a notice in federal court to say the case had been settled with an agreement to keep details confidential.[8]

Reaction Edit

Rapper Jay Z said Aaliyah's death to him felt like a precursor to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, which took place only a few weeks later.[9] Her boyfriend at the time of her death, Damon Dash, has said to have been in complete heartbreak after she died. There were also reports at the time of her death that he had not gotten out of bed for a number of days after hearing she had died and his spokeswoman, Lizzie Grubsman, would not comment on her death.[2]

Aaliyah posters in major cities such as Los Angeles and New York became makeshift memorials for grieving fans. In the aftermath of her death, Aaliyah's sales skyrocketed after having diminished since its debut month of July. The album stayed on the Billboard 200 for 68 weeks and has sold over 2.6. million copies. Timbaland said that Aaliyah's spirit overwhelmed all of her collaborators to continue working. Quincy Jones said of Aaliyah: "She was like one of my daughters. She was one of the sweetest girls in the world."[2]

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