Famous People Who Died in Aviation Accidents

Date/Time Person Location Aircraft Details Notes
Jan 11, 1980
Robert "Bo" Rein
34, Louisiana State University football coach
Over the Atlantic Ocean Cessna 441 Conquest
The plane veered off course and flew out over the Atlantic running out of fuel and crashing into the sea.  Cause unknown. details in database
Mar 14, 1980
c 11:00
U.S. Olympic boxing team
Anna Jantar

polish singer
Near Warsaw, Poland Polskie Linie Lotnicze 
Flight 007
SP-LAA cn:11044
An engine disintegrated after power was applied during a go-around severing the rudder and elevator controls. All 87 aboard were killed including 22 members of the team. details in
Jun 23, 1980 Sanjay Gandhi
34, son of Indira Gandhi
Delhi, India Pitt Special stunt plane Killed while flying a stunt plane that was not properly tested and which he was not familiar with. 2 killed.  
Dec 4, 1980 Francisco Sá Carneiro
45, Portuguese prime minister
Lisbon, Portugal Cessna 421 A parliamentary inquiry in 1995 concluded the crash was the result of sinister elements.  
May 22, 1981
Boris Sagal
58, film director
Near Portland, Oregon Bell 206B
Segal was decapitated, when he accidentally walked into the tail rotor of a helicopter while on location filming a movie. Father of actress Katey Sagal (Married with Children).  
May 24, 1981
Jaime Roldos Aguilera
President of Ecuador
Beech Super King Air 200
Crashed in poor weather.  Rumored to not been an accident but deliberately engineered. All 9 aboard killed.  
Jul 31, 1981
General Omar Torrijos
52, leader of Panama
Coclecito, Panama Panamanian Air Force The plane crashed under suspicious circumstances. Possible sabotage. 7 killed.  
Oct 5, 1981 Jud Strunk
45, country western song writer, singer, comedian
Carabasset, Maine Fairchild M-62A
WW II vintage open cockpit airplane
The plane, piloted by Strunk, crashed while attempting to take off with full flaps. 2 killed.  
 Mar 19,1982
Randy Rhoads
25,lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne
Leesburg, Florida
Beech Bonanza F35
The plane crashed into a house after a wing clipped Ozzy Osbourne's tour bus. The pilot was fooling around and attempting to to buzz the bus.  All 3 aboard killed including the pilot and Rachel Youngblood, the band's hairdresser.

details in
Apr 7, 1982 Harald Ertl
33, formula one race car driver
Giessen, Germany
Light aircraft He was killed while flying his family to their holiday home in northern Germany. His wife and son survived. 1 killed.  
May 17, 1982 John Felten
48, singer, sang with the Diamonds
Mount Shasta, California
Beech A24R
Crashed into Mt. Shasta en route from Reno, Nevada to Grants Pass, VFR flight into IFR conditions. Oregon. Felten's wife Linda and the pilot were also killed. 3 killed.  
Jul 23, 1982
Vic Morrow
57, movie actor
Valencia, California Bell UH-1B Huey helicopter
cn: 6414038
The helicopter crashed while filming the movie "Twilight Zone", decapitating Vic Morrow and killing 2 child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Rene Chen. Special effect explosion hit the tail rotor causing the helicpoter to crash. details in
Jul 28, 1982 Keith Green
28, Christian singer and minister
Lindale, Texas Cessna 414
Shortly after taking off, the plane nose dived into the ground.  Overloaded by 200 lbs. Green, along with his two children and 9 others aboard killed.  
Nov 23, 1982 Grady Nutt
47, Christian humorist, comedian
Vinemont, Alabama Beech 95-B55
The plane crashed while attempting to take off.  All 3 aboard killed.  
Jun 2, 1983
Stan Rogers
33, Canadian folk singer
Cincinnati, Ohio Air Canada
Flight 797
Douglas DC-9-32
C-FTLU  cn:47196
In-flight lavatory fire of unknown origin. Landed safely but passengers died of flash fire and smoke inhalation. 23 of 46 aboard killed.

details in
Jun 27, 1983
Maxie Anderson
Don Ida
Bavarian Alps Balloon During a balloon race, explosive bolts misfired, causing the gondola of their helium balloon to plunge to the ground. 3 killed.  
Sep 1, 1983
c 06:30
Lawrence McDonald
48, Georgia U.S. Rep.
Near Sakhalin Island, Russia Korean Airlines
Flight 007
Boeing 747-230B
HL-7442  cn:20599
Shot down by a Soviet Air Force fighter after the plane drifted into Soviet airspace. Crashed into international waters in the Sea of Japan. All 269 aboard killed. details in database
Nov 27, 1983
Jorge Ibarguengoita
55, Mexican novelist
Angel Rama
57, Uruguayan novelist
Marta Traba
53, Argentinean art critic
Manuel Scorza
55, Peruvian poet
Madrid-Barajas, Spain AVIANCA
Flight 11
Boeing 747-283B
HK2910  cn:21382
While attempting to land the plane impacted a series of hills. Procedural error by crew. 181 of 192 aboard killed. details in database
Dec 07, 1983
María "Fanny Cano" Damián
39, Mexican actress
Madrid, Spain Iberia Airlines
cn: 20820/47645
The Boeing 727 struck a DC-9 while taking off in fog, snow and poor visibility. The DC-9 wandered on the runway by accident. 93 of 135 aboard both planes killed. details in
Dec 12, 1983 17:30
Rex Dockery
41, head coach, Memphis State University
Lawrenceberg, Tennessee Pipper
On a dark, rainy night, the plane took a nose dive into the ground while attempting to land. Spatial disorientation. A staff and team member were also killed. 4 killed.  
Feb 11, 1985
Ben Abruzzo
54, Balloonist
Albuquerque, New Mexico Cessna 421C
Collided with tops of trees after a baggage door opened, diverting the attention of Abruzzo,who was piloting the plane. All 6 aboard killed including Abruzzo's wife. details in
Aug 12, 1985
Kyu Sakamoto
43, Japanese singer
Ueno Village, Japan Japan Air Lines
Flight 123
Boeing 747-SR46
JA8119  cn:20783
Pressure bulkhead failure, improperly repaired 7 years earlier. Worst single aviation accident. 520 of 524 aboard killed.  Sakamoto was famous for his hit song “Sukiyaki.”
details in
Aug 25, 1985
Samantha Smith
Auburn, Maine Bar Harbor AL
Flight 1808
Beechcraft 99
N300WP  cn:U-22
Famous for writing to Soviet leader Andropov about nuclear war. Crashed short of runway while landing. Pilot error. All 8 aboard killed. details in database
Sept 1, 1985 Richie Panch
30, race car driver
Rion, South Carolina Piper PA-28-235-B
Flew into heavy rain and squall line and came apart in mid-air.  Pilot error. Poor judgment and planning. 4 killed.   
Sep 16, 1985 Art Scholl
53, professional stunt pilot
Off Carlsbad, California Aerotec Pitts S-2A
Crashed into the Pacific Ocean while performing an inverted flat spin while filming for the movie "Top Gun."  
Sep 23, 1985 Larry Shue
39, playwright
Grottoes Grove, Virginia Henson Airlines
Flight 1517
Beechcraft 99
N339HA  cn:155
The commuter plane he was flying in hit a 2,400 ft. mountain while attempting to land.  Improper IFR procedure and lack of radio equipment. details in
Nov 25, 1985
Iowa State University women's cross-country team
Des Moines, Iowa Rockwell International 500-S
The aircraft crashed into tree tops and a power pole while attempting to land. Icing of wings. All 7 aboard including 3 team members and 2 coaches killed.  
Dec 31, 1985
Ricky Nelson
45, singer
De Kalb, Texas Douglas DC-3
Crashed into a field after smoke filled the cockpit and cabin. Possible faulty heater. Nelson's fiancé Helen Blair, soundman Clark Russell and members of his back-up group The Stone Canyon Band, Andy Chapin, Rick Intveld, Bobby Neal, and Patrick Woodward also killed. Both pilots survived. 

details in
Jan 14, 1986
Daniel Balavoine
34, French singer and songwriter
Thierry Sabine

36, French motorcycle racer
Mali AS 350 Eucreuil
The helicopter crashed into a dune during a sand storm. All 5 aboard killed.  
Jan 28, 1986
Ronald McNair, 35 Ellison Onizuka, 39 Judith Resnik, 36 Michael Smith, 40 Gregory Jarvis, 41 Francis Scobee, 46
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, 37

Crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger
Cape Canaveral, Florida Space Shuttle Challenger The craft broke up in flight, 73 seconds after launch, due to damage from an exhaust flame, leaking through a defective O ring in the solid fuel rocket. Six astronauts and civilian teacher, Christa McAuliffe, 37, killed.  
May 24, 1986
Stephen D. Thorne
33, U.S. astronaut
Near Santa Fe, Texas Aerotec Pitts S-2A
Thorne was killed when the stunt plane he was a passenger in spun into the ground. Short in electrical system distracted the pilot.  2 killed.  
Jun 4, 1986 Bruce Wayne (Talbert)
53, Los Angeles radio station KFI traffic reporter
Fullerton, California Cessna 177B
Taking off to report traffic, the plane's engine misfired and the aircraft nosed into the ground.  The pilot had an elevated blood alcohol. One killed.  
Oct 19, 1986
c 19:21
Samora Machel
Mozambique president

Lembombo Mts., South Africa Mozambique Air
Tupolev 134A
Crashed in a storm into high ground while trying to land at Maputo. Pilot error. Navigation error. GPWS ignored. Possible pirate signal disoriented pilot. 34 of 43 aboard  killed. details in
Oct 22, 1986 Jane Dornacker
WNBC traffic reporter
Manhattan, New York Enstrom F-28F helicopter
While on the air conducting a traffic report, Dornacker's helicopter crashed from a height of 75 feet into a fence and fell into the Hudson River. She died on the way to the hospital. This was her second crash that year.  Maintenance error. The clutch that was installed in the helicopter was a military surplus part which was not intended for use in a civil aircraft. 1 of 2 aboard killed.    
Nov 25, 1986 Nancy McCormick
WKRC traffic reporter
Cincinnati, Ohio Bell 206B
The helicopter crashed after the non-instrument rated pilot entered an area of fog and crashed into rising terrain. 2 killed.  
Mar 5, 1987
Don Yenko
59, race car builder, designer
Charleston, West Virginia Cessna 210M
The plane landed hard, bounced, veered off the runway and hit a dirt bank dove into a ravine and crashed. Pilot error. All 4 aboard killed.  
Mar 21, 1987 Dino Martin
35, son of entertainer Dean Martin
Mount San Gorgonio, California F-4C Phantom jet fighter While performing a maximum takeoff climb, the Air National Guard aircraft, entered clouds and crashed into a wall of granite while inverted at a speed of 560 mph. 2 killed. details in
Aug 16, 1987
Nick Vanos
24, basketball player, Phoenix Suns center
Romulus, Michigan Northwest Airlines
Flight 255
N312RC cn:48090
Crashed into underpass shortly after takeoff. Stalled and crashed on takeoff. Slats and flaps not properly set.  154 of 155 killed.
details in database
Dec 8, 1987 Alianza Lima soccer team Near Lima, Peru Fokker F-27
AE-560  cn:10548
Crashed into the sea after a fly-by to see if landing gear was down.  42 of 43 aboard killed.  
May 29, 1988
Salem bin Laden
42, brother of Osama bin Laden
Near San Antonio, Texas Spirit Ultralight Took off and crashed into high power lines and fell 115 feet to the ground. 1 killed.  
Aug 17, 1988
c 16:30
Arnold Raphel
45, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan
Mohammed Zia ul-Hag
64, President of Pakistan
Near Bahawalpur, Pakistan Pakistan Air Force
Lockheed C-130B
Crashed 10 minutes after taking off from Bahawalpur.  Act of sabotage. Detonation of a low-explosive device. All 30 aboard killed. details in database
Sep 30, 1988 Al Holbert
41, race car driver
Columbus, Ohio Piper PA-60-601P
Piloted by Hobert, the plane flew in an erratic manner and crashed into terrain shortly after taking off. Clamshell door not closed.  
Dec 21, 1988
Paul Jeffreys
33, Musician, bass player with Cockney Rebel
Lockerbie, Scotland Pan American
Flight 103
N739PA  cn:19646
Terrorist bombing.  Jeffreys was killed along with his newlywed wife Rachel. All 259 aboard killed.

details in database
Jun 7, 1989
Colorful 11
Dutch soccer team
Paramaribo, Suriname Surinam Airways
Flight 764
N1809E   cn:46107/498
Hit a tree after 3 landing attempts in fog.  Running out of fuel the crew could not get an ILS signal and ignored GPS warnings. Of the 187 aboard, 176 killed.

details in database
Jun 17, 1989 S. David Griggs
49, U.S. astronaut
Earle, Arkansas North American AT-6D
Killed when the single-engine stunt plane he was flying crashed Pilot error Improper planning, over confidence. 1 killed.  
Jul 19, 1989
Jay Ramsdell
25, CBA commissioner
Sioux City, Iowa United Airlines
Flight 232
N1819U  cn:46618
Catastrophic failure of the No. 2 engine which lead to loss of all hydraulics. Crash landed while attempting an emergency landing. 111 of 298 killed.
details in database
Aug 7, 1989
George Thomas "Mickey" Leland
45, Texas U.S. Rep.
Near Gambela, Ethiopia
de Havilland Twin Otter
ET-AIL  cn:699
Crashed into a mountain in thunderstorms and poor weather conditions during a refugee relief inspection flight. Pilot flew into an area of bad weather at low altitude and failed to maintain visual contact with the ground. All 16 aboard killed. details in
Aug 13, 1989
Larkin Smith
45, Mississippi U.S. Rep.
Janice, Mississippi Cessna 177RG
Spiraled into the ground. Pilot error. His non-instrument rated pilot flew into IFR conditions and lost control in hazy weather conditions. 2 killed. details in


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