1970s |

Mississippi Plane Crash Takes The Lives of Three Lynyrd Skynyrd Band Members – 10/20/1977

Aerosmith were having an upcoming tour in 1977 and needed an airlift to fly them to their destinations. They considered chartering a Convair 240 which was operated out of Addison, Texas. However, the members decided to look elsewhere after finding out that there were some questionable concerns regarding the airplane’s flight crew. This saved them from a serious injury. Their stroke of luck however became a sad fate for another band. 

On October 20, 1977, members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd boarded the said Convair 240 in question. It was supposed to have been a flight from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but the airplane crashed in a wooded area of southeastern Mississippi instead. The pilot failed to make a successful emergency landing, killing three band members – Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines – along with their assistant road manager in the process. The pilot and co-pilot were also part of the casualty while the twenty others were able to survive the crash.

The members Ronnie Van Zant, Bob Burns, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Larry Junstrom originally made up the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. They were first known as the “My Backyard” in 1964, having met as teenagers in Jacksonville, Florida. They were known for several other names, and through this transition stage, were able to develop their own kind of melody from 1960s to early 1970s. Finally in 1973, they were able to claim national recognition, the same time that they adopted the name “Lynyrd Skynyrd”.

According to the band, the name was a mocking tribute to their high school teacher named Leonard Skinner, whom they considered a nemesis because he strictly enforced the school’s policy against long hair during their high school years (they became friendly in the later years). Their debut album, (pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd), became a major hit. It contained one of the most joked-about rock songs of all time, Free Bird. The band was recognized as a giant in the southern rock subgenre after the release of their next album Second Helping in 1974. One of its singles, the Sweet Home Alabama, was a bigger hit compared to Free Bird.

Their band came to include backup singer Cassie Gaines and her guitarist brother, Steve during the release of their fifth album Street Survivors on October 17, 1977. Just like their first and second albums, this was received well by the public, earning them a double platinum. When everyone thought that they were on the rise, tragedy struck three days later. The Convair 240 was up 6,000ft on its way to Baton Rouge when it ran out of fuel. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane’s crew was responsible for the said accident.

Their accident report showed that the pilot radioed Houston air-traffic control and asked for directions to the nearest airfield. The pilot was in distress because they were running low on fuel by 6:42PM and pleaded for help, but unfortunately, assistance was not given on time and they crashed approximately just 13 minutes later.

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Kelly Sutherland


Hi! I'm Kelly. My favorite time period was the 70s. I had a boatloads of fun traveling around with my close friends spreading love and just living my life to the fullest... if you know what I mean ;) Now I enjoy sitting in my cozy nook writing and learning about history.