'American Idol' season 19 runner-up Willie Spence dies in Tennessee crash

Willie Spence, 'American Idol' performer, sings in Atlanta in 2021
Posted at 1:42 PM, Oct 12, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former "American Idol" contestant and runner-up Willie Spence has died in a crash in Tennessee, his family confirmed to WPTV on Wednesday.

He was 23.

A relative of Spence's said the reality singing competition season 19 runner-up was killed in a crash Tuesday afternoon in Marion County, Tennessee, just west of Chattanooga.

According to an accident report, Spence was driving an SUV when it veered off the road and crashed into a semi-truck that was parked on the shoulder, TMZ and NBC News reported.

Spence finished the show in 2nd place behind Chayce Beckham, TMZ reported.

"We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence," the show said in a statement on its official Twitter account. "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."

Although he grew up in Douglas, Georgia, Spence was born in Palm Beach County and spent his early childhood in Riviera Beach. His parents recently returned to Riviera Beach.

WPTV profiled Spence and his family's ties to Riviera Beach last year.

Spence often spoke on the show about his grandfather, a retired Palm Beach County pastor, who died in March 2021.

Hours before the crash, he posted a video on social media of himself singing "You Are My Hiding Place," NBC News reported.

A Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesperson told NBC News that the agency is investigating the incident.

Peter Burke at WPTV first reported this story.