On This Day: Aaliyah killed in tragic plane crash

On this day 20 years ago Aaliyah, known as the Princess of RnB, was killed in a tragic plane crash while filming a music video.

She was just 22 years old and at the height of her success when her life was unexpectedly cut short.

The American Music Award and MTV VMA winner and five-time Grammy Award Nominee was famous for her songs At Your Best, Are You That Somebody and Try Again.

She was also known for her short-lived controversial marriage to R Kelly, who she secretly wed at 15, when he was aged 27.

The 54-year-old is currently on trial for sex-trafficking charges and the controversial union was brought up on day one of the proceedings.

Aaliyah shown looking at the camera and pointing while holding an MT Music Award. Source: AP
Aaliyah was a rising star who had won several awards and recently starred in a hit movie. Source: AP

Aaliyah's tragic last days

In August of 2001, 60 people came together to produce a video for Aaliyah’s new song “Rock The Boat”, which was projected to be released that November.

On August 22, Aaliyah and her crew went to Miami, Florida to film choreographed dances in front of a green-screen. That evening, Aaliyah shot underwater scenes in a Miami hotel’s pool.

On August 23, she and her crew flew to The Bahamas where the remainder of the video was shot, showing Aaliyah and her back-up dancers on a yacht in the picturesque waters.

Although filming was supposed to wrap up on August 26, it was decided that Aaliyah would leave a day earlier - a decision that ultimately led to her death.

Scene of plane crash. Source: AP
Nine people died in the horrific plane crash. Source: AP

On August 25 at approximately 6:50pm Aaliyah and her entourage, including a hairdresser, bodyguard and record executive, boarded a Cessna 402B twin-engine light aircraft, scheduled to fly to Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport in Florida that night.

There were nine people on the plane, including Aaliyah, her entourage and the pilot, plus equipment.

According to witnesses, the pilot was seen arguing with the crew that the aircraft was overloaded. But he nonetheless attempted to complete the flight.

In a final phone-call with her boyfriend, Aaliyah reportedly told him she didn’t feel good about the plane, but told him “you know, I gotta do it.”

A young life lost

The plane, which was reportedly about 300kg overweight, got about 30 metres off the ground before banking to the left and taking a nose-dive and slamming into the ground.

Aaliyah, along with five others died at the scene of the crash with three other survivors dying in hospital shortly after.

RnB star Aaliyah pictured in a music video. Source: AP
RnB star Aaliyah - pictured in a scene from her movie Queen of the Damned - was tragically killed in a 2001 plane crash in The Bahamas. Source: AP

Following news of the crash, Aaliyah’s fans were devastated, holding a candlelight vigil at her former high school.

Big name R&B artists Beyonce, Ginuwine and DMX also expressed their grief following her death.

On August 28, Aaliyah’s body was transported back to the United States, where hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects as her coffin was lifted into a hearse.

Inspiring career

Born Aaliyah Haughton, the singer got her first taste of fame at the age of 10 on the iconic TV show Star Search.

Two years later she met R Kelly, who produced her debut album, called Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, which was released in 1994 and sold six million copies.

The pair married in secret in 1994 when she was just 15 and he was 27. She was thought to be pregnant at the time.

Kelly is accused of bribing an official to force documents ahead of the illegal marriage.

Aaliyah, pictured in a scene from Romeo Must Die, was at the height of her fame when she was tragically killed. Source: AP
Aaliyah, pictured in a scene from Romeo Must Die, was at the height of her fame when she was tragically killed. Source: AP

The union was later annulled when her parents found out about it.

Kelly has since been accused by several women of abusing them when they were underage and is now on trial on sex-trafficking charges which go back two decades.

After the marriage was over, Aaliyah's career almost ended over the scandal, as she was held responsible for the union and branded a teenage seductress while the I Believe I Can Fly singer's career continued to go from strength to strength.

However, by 2001 her career was at its peak after she had released a hit second album One in a Million and starred in a hit movie opposite Jet Li, Romeo Must Die.

Her second movie, horror film Queen of the Damned, came out after her death.

Change in history

Following the death of the Princess of R&B, a number of popular culture shifts occurred.

Aaliyah had been cast to appear in The Matrix sequels, where her character Zee was then played by Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona.

Rapper Jay-Z also did a remix to her song Miss You, featuring the lyric: "What’s up baby girl? You know I had to talk to you again."

In an attempt to keep her memory alive, an Instagram account honours the late singer and keeps her name relevant in modern times.

Despite passing away over 20 years ago, she still has millions of monthly listeners on Spotify and is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

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