On August 25th, 2001, Aaliyah and eight others boarded a small twin-engine plane in the Bahamas. The Cessna was headed to Opa Locka Airport in Florida. The flight was only an hour and twenty minutes, so Aaliyah and the team were eager to get back. They were exhausted after working hard on the “Rock The Boat” video shoot, and Aaliyah wanted to get home to see her mother, who had eye surgery and couldn’t come to the shoot. Aaliyah’s family regularly attended her video shoots and her brother Rashad usually helped with all the decision-making. But this trip was the first trip that none of her family was present.
The Plane Crash
The plane was originally scheduled to leave the following day, but they finished the shoot early and thought it best to get back to the states. Packed with production equipment, Cessna 402 took off from the Bahamas at 6:50 pm. It was a clear evening, visibility was great, and there was a slight wind, but nothing that caused any concern to the pilot or crew. Shortly after taking flight, an engine failed and the plane crashed on Abaco Islands, killing Aaliyah and the eight passengers on board.
A true account of the last moments of Aaliyah’s life will always be a tragic wonder never realized. Her death sparked instant conspiracy theories that spread across tabloids and newspapers worldwide. The internet was in its infant stages; no Twitter hashtags, no Instagram feeds, just the news and they didn’t know much. But, in the last 20 years, new light has been shed on the tragic accident. What was thought to be some elaborate conspiracy, was just a tragic story of an icon gone too soon; a plane that was too heavy, and a pilot who shouldn’t have been flying the plane in the first place. According to the Bahamian police, the plane’s engine failed some 200 feet after takeoff and crashed in fiery heap at the end of the runway.
Pathologists would later confirm that the singer died from severe burns and a blow to the head. He also revealed she had a weak heart and that her body would have gone into shock while experiencing such a traumatic event. Even if she survived the crash, her recovery would have been impossible. Investigators would also discover that the plane was overloaded by more than 700 pounds; that’s the average size of two adults lions. The pilot, Luis Morales III, pleaded no-contest to a cocaine charge just 12 days before the accident and wasn’t authorized to fly the aircraft. They found both cocaine and alcohol in his system.
We will truly never understand what we lost that day. Aaliyah was the essence of iconic. Her tomboyish style, which is still emulated by artists today, gave her a very relatable, down to earth, sexy appeal. Every woman wanted to be her and every man wanted to be around her. Everything she portrayed seemed larger than life. She revolutionized an entire genre of music, influencing some of the most popular R&B and successful artists to date. Her album, “One in a Million,” sold over 3 million copies in the United States and over eight million worldwide. She was well on her way to becoming a megastar. Even the the “Princess of R&B” has been gone for 20 years, her legacy is just getting started. Her album “One in a Million” has now hit streaming platforms and young fans who didn’t get to experience Aaliyah firsthand will at least get to enjoy her music…Finally.
If you have never heard “One in a Million,” do yourself a favor, open Spotify, and enjoy. It’s only right we make this a happy ending.