'American Idol' runner-up Willie Spence dies after a car crash at 23: 'I'm in shock'

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Willie Spence, who finished in second place on Season 19 of “American Idol,” has died. He was 23. 

The singing competition show issued a statement on Spence’s death in a tribute post on Instagram Wednesday. 

“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved ‘American Idol’ family member, Willie Spence,” read the post, featuring video from his audition. “He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones.” 

The singer died Tuesday after hitting the rear of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 24 East near Chattanooga, according to reports by ABC News and NBC News citing a Tennessee Highway Patrol report. USA TODAY has reached out to the Tennessee Highway Patrol for comment.

Both drivers were wearing seatbelts, and the truck driver wasn’t injured, the crash report said.

"American Idol" runner-up Willie Spence has died after a fatal car crash. He was 23.

Spence began his “Idol” journey by singing Rihanna’s “Diamonds” for his audition that aired in February 2021, with judge Lionel Richie calling him “an undeniable star.” From then he consistently wowed judges and became the runner-up, losing to “Idol” winner Chayce Beckham.

During the “Idol” showdown finale Spence sang his rendition of Cynthia Erivo’s “Stand Up,” a song he’d wowed the judges with earlier in the season. 

“We love that voice, and I love where it comes from. It comes from God, and it comes from a soul within that I pray I can find one day,” judge Luke Bryan said of Spence’s talent. 



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