Fifty years ago on Feb. 15, the entire U.S. figure skating team died in a plane crash on its way to the World Championships in Prague. The plane crashed as it was trying to land in Brussels, killing all 72 on board and one person on the ground. Find out more about the nine-time champion who died and learn more about the movie made about the tragedy.
‘We Are Marshall’
Flying into “rain, fog, smoke and a ragged ceiling” is tricky anytime, but once when it was a pilot’s first landing at an airport, it turned tragic. The entire Marshall University Thundering Herd football team perished in this crash on Nov. 14, 1970, but this proud program was rebuilt and continues to excel. The story was captured in a 2006 movie.
Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number, but when your plane goes down and you’re 22 years old, it seems impossibly tragic. In the wake of the crash, Aaliyah’s parents filed lawsuits.
Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly
The Day the Music Died was Feb. 3, 1959, forever immortalized in a famous rock song. Three promising lives snuffed out before their prime. One Cricket didn’t get on the plane and for the rest of his life was haunted by something he said that fateful night.
Headed to France to entertain U.S. troops in Dec. 1944, a plane carrying one of the world’s most popular musicians went down in bad weather over the English Channel. The body of the young band leader was never found, but his music endures and continues to define an era in American music.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
On Aug. 27, 1990, a helicopter crash silenced one of the greatest blues-rock guitarists of all time. The tragedy came after this troubled guitar slinger had finally overcome some destructive habits. Cold Shot, indeed. Members of another blues legend’s tour crew also died.
Lech Kaczynski and Ted Stevens
Our new decade has not been a good one for politicians and air travel. One nation lost its president in an April 2010 crash over an Eastern European neighbor,and four months later, the U.S. Senate’s longest-serving Republican died in a crash in his home state.
Reba McEntire Band
On March 16, 1994, Reba McEntire’s band died in a crash just hours after finishing a set in San Diego. The plane crashed into the side of a mountain. Authorities said passengers “probably had no idea what happened,” but Reba said it was the worst thing that had ever happened in her life. Six members and the tour manager perished.
Not to be confused with the famous preacher, this impresario was a rock and roll legend who escaped the Nazis early in life, though his mother did not. The Grateful Dead are among the many and various bands that Graham promoted in his life, cut short on Oct. 25, 1991 in a grisly crash along with his partner and the pilot.
Oct. 12, 1997, the world lost a singer/songwriter/activist/poet and pilot who was one of the most popular musical artists of the 1970s. The 53-year-old was piloting an experimental plane when it crashed into the Pacific. He had something special with him when he was cremated.
This golfer, who was said to a bigger wardrobe than any of his competitors, won three majors in his golfing career, including the 1999 U.S. Open just months before he died.
Space Shuttle Challenger
It was an unforgettably tragic moment for and brought the term O-Ring into global consciousness. On Jan. 28, 1986, with school children all over the country watching the TV broadcast, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its space mission. All seven crew members died, including the woman who trained to become the first teacher in space.
Some called this Minnesota lawmaker the conscience of the Senate. He was fiercely liberal and voted against going to war in Iraq shortly before his death on Oct. 25, 2002.
The first female pilot of African-American descent, “Queen Bess” was not allowed to attend aviation schools in the U.S., so she sailed to Paris and became a barnstormer. She survived a 1922 plane crash only to die in a crash over Jacksonville, Florida on April 30, 1926 at the age of 34 with her mechanic and publicity agent, William Wills.
Once voted one of the Greatest Women of Country Music, she was also heralded for her place in rock and roll history. She was nearly killed in a 1961 car crash, then perished in a 1963 plane crash that also killed her manager and two others.
The King of Soul did not live to see his biggest hit released to the public. He died in a plane crash on Dec. 10, 1967, at the age of 26 – a month before the song was released and just three days after he recorded it. His manager, the pilot, and four members of his band The Bar-Kays also died.
He was a world champion boxer who once beat a legend. When he retired, he became the only heavyweight to hang up his gloves undefeated. On Aug. 31, 1969, the eve of his 46th birthday, he died with an inexperienced pilot and one other passenger.