Bad dreams and also premonitions, a dilapidated plane, and whiskey party in the cockpit sound like a recipe for disaster, and in the instance of the 1970s tape Lynyrd Skynyrd, that’s simply scratching the surface. The band that helped popularize southern rock through their access time “Free Bird” and also “Sweet residence Alabama” was at the pinnacle of your success as soon as it all come crashing under in a complimentary fall from the sky. Details around the plane crash that claimed the resides of 3 band members defy belief and also have left fans mystified. For this reason what exactly happened on the fateful night the the Lynyrd Skynryd airplane crash?


Ronnie van Zant to be the well known frontman the the group, however he also had the eerie gift of foresight. Valve Zant missed the 27 society (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, etc), however that didn’t protect against him from predicting his death to come before he rotate 30 year old. Despite the fatality of their lead singer, an iteration Lynyrd Skynyrd still tours to this day.

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Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns

He do the mark, beating his premonition by simply 87 days. His gift come out in his music too, together his lyrics and style take it a dark turn toward the finish as well. “Ronnie to be the only one of my youngsters who had 2nd sight,” his father provided to brag.


Van Zant essential reinforcements on the tour, so he referred to as Jo Jo Billingsley, that was the lead singer that The Honkettes and also asked she to join the band on tour. In an interview years later she said: “That night I had the many vivid dream. I saw the aircraft smack the ground.”


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Photo by Tom Hill/WireImage

“I saw them screaming and also crying, and also I experienced fire. Ns woke increase screaming, and my mom came to run in going, ‘Honey what is it?’ I said ‘Mama, ns dreamed the airplane crashed!’ and she said, ‘No, honey, it’s simply a dream.’ and I said, ‘No, mom, it’s as well real!"” Unfortunately, it to be all also real.


On the night of Oct. 20, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd gathered for the last time in Greenville, southern Carolina. They to be on tour to encourage their latest album “Street Survivors,” and had just finished a show at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. They had to record their trip for the next stop on the tour.


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Photo through Pete Still/Redferns

The next stop ~ a virtually 700-mile airplane ride was Baton Rouge, whereby they’d beat in a present at LSU the adhering to night. Anyone took one look at the Convair CV-240 and were concerned, come say the least. The aircraft had excellent something terrifying just two days prior to that left the tape petrified.


On their trip to Greenville coming from Florida, the plane managed to obtain into the air, yet barely. Before this flight even took off, the band was unimpressed with its condition. It was 30 year old, and when the pilot guided the airplane down the runway, a according to bang was heard from the starboard side.


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Photo by George W. Hales/Peter King/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A backfire the sounded favor a gunshot was complied with by a 10-foot present of fire rolling the ideal engine v sparks flying. The airplane eventually leveled out at 12,000 feet and also after number of minutes, the fire extinguished. The aircraft kept top top flying, and also to everyone’s relief, it made it to Greenville.


Earlier in 1977, over there was one more rock and also roll tape in the sector for one airplane. Eerily, legend rock group Aerosmith had actually representatives looking come buy the very Convair that lugged Lynyrd Skynyrd to their demise. Aerosmith’s supervisors toured the plane and were extremely unimpressed v the plane’s condition and the employee that manned it.


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Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The last straw came when they allegedly saw pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot wilhelm Gray happen a bottle of Jack Daniel’s back and forth. The aircraft may have actually held up, however the pilots failed their inspection, and that is why you room reading around Lynyrd Skynyrd instead of Aerosmith best now.


No one wanted to gain on the aircraft that night. It had flown close to 30,000 miles in that is tenure, and also originally the was seen as an upgrade. The tape is native the Deep southern (Van Zant hailed from Jacksonville, Florida) and short hops to be the norm because that them.


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Photo through Tom Hill/Getty Images

The plane passed manager Peter Rudge’s inspection, and three payment of $5,000 later, the plane was theirs. It was a substantially diminished price, and the savings were hard to justify once Rudge skipped the flight by opting for a first-class ticket ~ above a advertising airliner. Word come the wise: If you have actually money come buy an airplane, don’t pay bottom dollar.


Lynyrd Skynyrd may have been from the South, yet their pan hailed from almost everywhere the country. This tour was claimed to see them accomplish their dream of play in Madison Square Garden. The plan was come buy a brand-new plane in Louisiana for the much longer trips, but the tape didn’t also want to make the flight.


Several surviving band members expressed your fears the night. Casey Gaines, the back-up singer and also sister of Steve, in reality hid in the back of their equipment truck until she was encouraged to get on the plane. In a chilling statement the tempted fate, valve Zant is report to have actually said, “Hey, if the Lord wants you to dice on this plane when it’s your time, it’s her time. Let’s go, man. We’ve obtained a gig to do.”


Van Zant was absolutely a worker and also was committed to his fans, specifically in the South. Among the reasons he compelled the issue is because their greatest fan base was whereby they were going on the fateful night. That was meant that 10,000 fans would certainly attend the concert.


Also, ahead conversations show that he was indeed trying come tempt fate, and perhaps the airplane crash is just how he envisioned going the end all along. Drummer Pyle recalled a story some years later and also said, “Ronnie and I to be in Tokyo, Japan, and Ronnie said me the he’d never ever live to see 30 and that he to be going to walk out through his boots ~ above — in various other words, ~ above the road.”


In fashion true to your profession, Lynyrd Skynyrd live the rock-n-roll life. One of their critical hits to be “That Smell,” who title advert to, as the lyrics say, the “smell of fatality surrounding you.” It’s one ominous song and also starts with the true story the guitarist Gary Rossington drunkenly smashing his brand brand-new Fort Torino into a tree (‘oak tree you’re in mine way’).


It was among the critical songs valve Zant wrote, and also months prior to his death he was stated to have actually commented, “I had a creepy feeling points were going against us, so I believed I’d compose a morbid song.” but even van Zant most likely didn’t cheap for what to be going come come.


The rock and roll lifestyle contains its share of crazy stories, and also Lynyrd Skynyrd was no different. They ere living fast and also hard. Previously, they to be fond of chartering flights in nicer planes, yet word soon gained out that transferring them in the air to be a nightmare because that pilots and also crew.


A pattern of rowdy incidents developed that made many private providers unwilling to occupational with them. On peak of your run of the mill drunken debauchery, there were much more serious incidents. There’s also a story of them trying to open up a door and throw a roadie out of the aircraft at 13,000 feet.


Roadies, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and also the pilot and co-pilot boarded the airplane that take it off simply after 5 p.m. There were 26 civilization in all, and the ride began much much better than the vault flight. Just about everyone appeared a small scared, however eventually, castle calmed down as they cleared up into the flight.


Van Zant also took a nap in the aisle. Some of the passengers played a poker game in the back, and also the shenanigans were on (the game obtained heated when one the the football player tore the table off the wall). For two and a half hours that the flight, their are afraid abated. And also then it happened…


One of the roadies, a guy named Marc Frank, reported that he experienced gasoline spewing out of the best engine if they to be in trip (the same engine that was ~ above fire the work before). Then suddenly, the engine stopped and the airplane began come jolt violently in the air.


The pilots struggled to store the plane level, and also they to be at a high threat of going into a spiral. Then the left engine quit too. Lock were nearly 10,000 feet in the air and also both engines to be out. Any feelings the they to be going to make it conveniently went away.


Reports say that the pilots, McCreary and also Gray, to be attempting to transport fuel from one engine to the various other (perhaps sensing a problem in the best engine), and also instead jettisoned all of their continuing to be fuel (maybe currently that story of them passing a party of Jack Daniel’s earlier and soon is beginning to make an ext sense, though toxicology reports did to speak they to be sober).


The plane was refueled in Greenville, and also reports likewise say it had actually plenty of gas to do the journey, which helps assistance this theory. Either way, the reality was that the airplane was up in the waiting and fully out of gas. It was a dire case for even the most optimistic.


Pyle to be sitting earlier and watching events transpire, together he to be a trained pilot. Every little thing was eerily silent; no one claimed anything. The whistling wind was all they heard, making the no secret to the passengers what happened to the engines. Pyle gone into the cockpit and also reported seeing fear washed over McCreary’s eyes.


McCreary notified Pyle to gain everyone in their seats and buckle up. He did as instructed and also woke increase Van Zant in the earlier of the plane. Number of band members stated Van Zant was an extremely calm, and even a little annoyed the he had been woken up.


The pilots radioed come ground manage units and found out they to be too far from any kind of airport to reasonably make an emergency landing on a runway. In fact, the closestly one to be 17 miles behind them. With steering capabilities substantially diminished and no propulsion, the pilots still made decision to execute a turn.


The Convair jerked suddenly and before everyone knew it, the aircraft was a full 90 degrees sideways v wings completely perpendicular come the ground. The pilots were able to level the plane’s wings and for 10 lengthy minutes, castle glided v the air together the airplane slowly descended towards earth.


As the airplane lost altitude, reports by making it through passengers say that most human being on board involved in quiet prayer. There was just enough light external to make unlimited clusters of treetops clearly shows in a substantial forest — no people as much as the eye might see. Assist would take it a while.


The band’s defense manager, a guy named Greg Odom, claimed he rushed the cockpit and yelled to the pilots, “I hope you two sons that bitches live with this, therefore I deserve to kill both the you!” and as for Van Zant, some reports to speak he satellite quietly, while Pyle insurance claims he shook his hand before walking past him to his seat. “Ronnie knew that he was going to die,” Pyle later said.


In what must’ve felt favor an eternity, the plane finally descended right into the trees. There were no roads, waterways, or open up fields, so the airplane carved its own path through the woodland at 90 mph.

One that the band members claimed the tree sounded choose a thousands baseball bats smacking the steel hull.


Then the wings tore off, the tail tore off, and the cockpit too through the pilots inside. With the remaining 24 passengers, the fuselage twisted on the ground and also slid sideways for 500 feet versus the branches and rocks along the woodland floor. And then … and eerie quiet consumed the site.


The carnage the the wreckage to be a horrific scene including twisted metal and also fragile human tissue (heads up: this next component is quite bad). The 2 pilots hung from a tree. Road Manager Dean Kilpatrick place dead in the swamp. The plane had damaged apart right into tiny small pieces, scattered around the woodland floor.


Steve Gaines passed away on impact, and also his sister Cassie to be thrown from the airplane and passed away shortly after the crash. As for valve Zant, every the premonitions and also talk about his fatality finally developed the an outcome he anticipated. That hit his head against the bulkhead and died instantly upon impact.


“When ns heard that there had actually been a aircraft crash, I simply knew Ronnie was one of the ones that didn’t make it,” claimed Van Zant’s mam Judy part years after the crash. “He called me so plenty of times that i realized that he really knew what the was talking about.”


With valve Zant’s death, Lynyrd Skynyrd was effectively over for the moment. Yet there to be still lot of of survivors, and also many that them were in really negative shape. The airplane was loaded with equipment and also just about every seat was throttled indigenous the floor. World started arising from the twisted metal of the crash.


When the aircraft was descending, just about everyone was praying other than for Pyle. The previous Marine to be looking the end the home window for any kind of sign that civilization. This was important because when he emerged from the wreckage (with many shattered ribs), he was able to orient himself and also go look because that help.


Two an ext passengers arised from the carnage including roadie Marc Frank and sound technician Ken Peden. Keyboarder Billy Powell climbed come the peak of the fuselage and sat trying come absorb the gravity of what happened. He stated he might hear bassist Leon Wilkeson screaming, “Get me out of here!”


Pyle thought he spotted a farm from the air, and with both Frank and Peden, that took off in that direction come look for help. In the darkness that the thickly forested swamp, Pyle claimed a snake slithered appropriate up to him. In a publication he wrote later he revealed that he said, “Snake, I will certainly bite your head off.”


Determined to discover help, they overcome a shallow creek and also then crawled in ~ a barbed-wire fence. Then they come upon a heard that cattle and also feared they might be rushed by a bull. That would’ve to be the least of your concerns, as momentarily castle were challenged by dairy products farmer Johnny Mote who invited Pyle and agency kindly.


Mote was a 22-year-old dairy product farmer who lived nearby and heard the commotion resulted in by the airplane crash. There was additionally a prison nearby, and Mote presume the noise had something to execute with an escape. He to be on high alert when he visited investigate the secret noises in the darkness of the forest.


When Frank, Peden, and Pyle arised from the swamp, dirtied and also bloodied. Mote told his mam to remain inside while he grabbed a shotgun. He then made his means outside and also confronted the three men with a shooting in the waiting (Pyle stated the shot grazed his shoulder, a claim that was later been rebuked).


The three guys hit the dirt and started yelling that they weren’t trying to hurt come him yet had just been in a plane crash. Though initially skeptical, eventually, Mote establish (probably in component due to the clearly shows the injuries they had) castle were informing the truth. That sprung into action, quickly mobilizing next-door neighbors to head because that the crash site.


By now, helicopters to be on the scene and helped illuminate the crash site. Due to the fact that of the lack of fuel in the engines, there to be no explosions or fires. The was great for those that survived, but bad for those trying come help. Just muted screams and cries the agony could assist locate the survivors.


A neighbor of Mote called Dwain Easley later on said, “The very first thing I witnessed was a bloody hand reaching out from the debris. People were every mashed together. We’d move one and there would certainly be an additional one laying there.” Volunteer Fireman Jamie wall reached the scene and also began removing people out the the wreckage with a hatchet. Equipped with this old tool, wall did his best to find survivors. Luckily for the band, things started to take a turn for the positive.


Reports say that he tripped over plenty of survivors in the dark and provided aid. In all, over 100 people found the crash-site and also began helping the survivors. Even an ext descended on the website with ill intentions, as human being started gathering wallets, watches, band paraphernalia, and also even steel from the wreckage as souvenirs.


Despite what price to pilot error, it’s actually exceptional that there were 20 aircraft crash survivors. The absence of fuel to be a contributing element for survive (once ~ above the ground), however there to be no shortage of damaged bones, contusions, and also lacerations.Wilkeson, that was heard screaming, to be pulled from the wreckage and also faced hours of work to repair his teeth, legs, arms, and also body.


Reports to speak his heart stopped twice on the operation table. Years later on he claimed he was sitting top top a cloud-shaped log through Van Zant and also another musician that had passed away six year earlier. Wilkeson said, “Ronnie said me, ‘Boy, obtain yourself out of here, it’s not your time yet, gain on the end of here.”


“Street Survivors,” which had been released three days before the crash, came to be Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most successful album and completed double-platinum status. At the insistence the Gaines’s wife, the album cover was changed because that morbidly portrayed Gaines and other band members engulfed in flames. Obviously, this to be done in bad taste, for this reason it’s a good thing the the document label heeded Gaines’ call.


With your frontman and also lead guitarist gone, and also band members mangled from injuries, Lynyrd Skynyrd to be all yet dead. The band was revitalized 10 years later on as van Zant’s younger brothers Johny took over as the frontman, yet the new Lynyrd Skynyrd only featured among the original band members, Gary Rossington.


The future was not bright because that the band members that made it through the crash. Guitarist Allen Collins lost his wife because of her pregnant complications 4 years later, then was paralyzed in a vehicle crash and also later died of pneumonia. Wilkeson’s time at some point did come, as he passed away of complications from years of substance abuse.


Billy Powell additionally died years later of a heart strike at the age of 56. Death hovered end the group like the movie Final Destination and also made the track “That Smell” and its lyrics even much more eerie, prophetic, and also popular: “the smell of death surrounds you!”


Artimus Pyle walked far from the crash with mere cuts and also bruises, and also his is perhaps the most enduring tale after the crash. He became the headliner the the Artimus Pyle Band and also rocked v them until he join the rebirth of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987.He was with them for 4 years before quitting, citing legitimate troubles through Van Zandt’s mam Judy as his reason for leaving. It’s unfortunate because that a group of musicians that were once as close together brothers.


He attempted to revive the Artimus Pyle Band, yet he uncovered himself in warm water v attempted funding battery amongst other severe charges in 1992. An ext recently, that tried to help produce a documentary around the band, however a judge placed the kibosh on that since he didn’t adhere come a 1987 covenant that forced him to include at the very least three original band members in the project.

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‘Comin’ Home’

As because that Van Zant, that was lugged to his home and also put to remainder in Jacksonville, Florida. Before this, his father involved identify his son’s body and also gave tape members some reassuring words: “Ronnie is fine, you just get better and rest.”As because that Ronnie valve Zant, his body was interned with his favorite cane fishing pole, and a quintessential black optimal hat sheathe in snakeskin.


Grave robbers disturbed his last resting place and also Van Zant’s coffin was moved into a concrete structure with continuous security. Maybe he’s still sit on the cloud log waiting for his family and also the rest of his bandmates to join him, singing “Sweet residence Alabama” (‘carry me home to watch my kin’) while he casts his fishing line underneath “where the skies room so blue.”