We are learning more about American Idol alum Willie Spence‘s death — and it’s even more tragic than we realized.
As we reported on Wednesday, the Georgia native unexpectedly died at just 23 years old this week. At the time, reports didn’t provide much information beyond indicating Spence had been in a car accident and later succumbed to his injures.
Now, there’s more information about the series of events that took the young singer’s life. According to WJCL, Spence was driving on Interstate 24 going eastbound in Marion County, Tennessee east of Chattanooga on Tuesday afternoon. At some point, according to documents the outlet obtained from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Spence’s car “exited the roadway.” It’s unclear why — maybe he got distracted or fell asleep just for an instant? It happens all the time.
Sadly, there happened a tractor-trailer truck parked on the shoulder of the highway right where Spence had veered. The popular singer was wearing his seatbelt, the THP reported, but the collision with the back of the 18-wheeler was severe. While Spence did not survive, the outlet notes the driver of the truck was not injured.
Now, the singer’s family, friends, and loved ones are working through their grief. Tony Paulk — the mayor of Spence’s hometown of Douglas, Georgia — spoke to the news outlet about the grief everyone in town is carrying over the star’s untimely and tragic death. The mayor said:
“Willie Spence was a very genuine and humble big guy. I think that’s the impact that he left on the city of Douglas is who he was, a big humble and generous and big-hearted individual.”
Amid Spence’s much-loved run to the American Idol season finale back in 2021, officials in the small town of Douglas presented him with a key to the city. At the time, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also declared the show’s finale week to be “Willie Spence Week” across the Peach State.
For now, Paulk said the town is waiting to honor Spence until they “hear from the family and what their wishes are.” In the meantime, the mayor is struggling to come to grips with the heartbreaking event:
“To be taken in his early 20s, it’s just sad.”
As we previously reported, the American Idol world has been mourning that fact, too.
The show’s official Instagram and Twitter accounts posted a touching statement grieving Willie in the hours after his death was first reported:
“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence. 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.”
In the comments, judge Katy Perry called Spence the “purest soul,” and added:
“I love you Willie. … Sing with the angels my darling.”
Fellow show judge Lionel Richie added he was “blessed” to have met Spence, and shared:
“Your light will always shine in this world. My thoughts and prayers are with Willie’s family. Rest well my friend.”
Meanwhile, country crooner and fellow Georgia native Luke Bryan tweeted his condolences following the awful reveal:
“Willie really did light up every room he walked into. He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed.”
Willie really did light up every room he walked into. He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed. https://t.co/XTqm65UJu0
— Luke Bryan (@lukebryan) October 12, 2022
Heartbreaking… Here’s more on the death of the “gentle giant,” as revered by his mourning loved ones:
So sad. We continue to send our love to Spence’s family and friends.
[Image via American Idol/YouTube]
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