Willie Spence died tragically on Tuesday afternoon, according to Tennessee State Troopers, Willie’s Jeep Cherokee went off the road and crashed into the back of a tractor trailer that had stopped on the shoulder of the road.
But why did Willie, who finished as the runner-up on American Idol in 2021 behind winner Chayce Beckham, crash his car?
Members of Willie’s family spoke to TMZ and were quick to say they don’t think alcohol played a role in the accident. Instead, their theory revolves around his weekend activities. Family sources told TMZ that Willie was leaving Tennessee State University’s homecoming weekend when the crash happened. Apparently some (who?) have speculated that Willie was driving drunk, but his family said that the late singer wasn’t a drinker.
Besides, Willie uploaded a video of himself singing in his car just prior to beginning his drive from Tennessee back to Georgia. He seemed completely sober in that clip. It’s sad the family feels they have to get ahead of ugly rumors.
Instead, the family reports it was a long weekend for Willie and that he might have been “severely fatigued.” The family thinks he may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Police have yet to determine an official cause for accident or death.
Could Willie have experienced a health event behind the wheel?
However, has anybody–including family members, considered whether Willie experienced a medical event while driving? During his audition in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, Willie discussed his poor health.
A year or so before his Idol audition, Willie admitted himself to the hospital after experiencing pain in his chest. The doctors found fluid in Willie’s lungs. During the clip, a photo of Willie in his hospital bed wearing an oxygen mask flashed on the screen.
The health event was so scary, that the singer became determined to become healthier. At 600 pounds, he changed his diet and began working out with a trainer to lose 200 pounds.
Still overweight, it’s not outrageous to speculate that Willie could have experienced a heart attack or stroke behind the wheel.
Willie details his health scare on American Idol
No matter the reason why Willie lost control of his car, the world lost what his family called, in a Florida press conference, “a gentle giant.”
A gentle giant
“He had such a soft demeanor but a very, very powerful voice,” Willie’s cousin, Sabrena Cooper said in a press conference held outside his grandmother’s home in Riviera Beach, Florida on Wednesday. “When he opened his mouth and lifted the Lord in song, many would just stop in their tracks to listen to him. Now Willie is in heaven, singing the lead in the heaven’s choir.”
Willie was on his way back to Atlanta to meet with an organization that helps abused and trafficked women, his family told TMZ. It’s a partnership he excitedly told his mother about the day before the fatal accident.
Living in the Atlanta area, Willie was planning to travel with a community marching band from Riviera Beach to London for London Band week next summer.
“To be able to sing in London with the SOS Marching Band is an amazing feeling. I’m still shocked to this day and I’m just honored, blessed to have this opportunity to perform in front of the Royal Family,” he told CBS12 News in June.