Willie Spence, the runner-up of season 19 of American Idol in 2021, passed away on October 11, according to fellow American Idol alum Katharine McPhee. “Tonight, I received extremely bad news,” she began her Instagram Story. “Sweet @williespenceofficial died in a Car accident. Just 23 years of age.”
Willie Spence, a former runner-up on “American Idol,” died in an automobile accident on Tuesday, according to investigators. Spence, 23 years old, placed second to Chayce Beckham in the show's nineteenth season, which aired in 2013.
Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Marion County, East Tennessee, Spence's 2019 Jeep Cherokee “left the roadway” and collided with the rear of a tractor-trailer stopped on the shoulder of eastbound Interstate 24 at the 147-mile marker, according to a preliminary report by the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Marion County medical examiner.
According to the report, both Spence, a native of Georgia, and the 68-year-old tractor-trailer driver were wearing seat belts. The Highway Patrol is investigating why Spence's car swerved off the road, according to a representative.
Two years ago, Spence sang a remarkable rendition of Rihanna's “Diamonds” during his American Idol audition in front of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. Richie gave the singer a standing ovation and called him an “undeniable” star.
Perry meanwhile informed Spence, “You know that you sing well. So my question is when you consider your future and realize the power of your voice—because you know it stops people in their tracks, this is your magic—what do you want it to sound like in five years? In your wildest imagination, if nothing stood in your way.”
Spence responded that he wanted his voice to “reach the globe” and that he wanted to share his talent with others. He added to his list of desires, “Eventually earning a Grammy, we hope. I picture myself in this position in five years.”
Spence was pronounced dead at the site, according to Marion County Medical Examiner Barbara O'Neal, who stated that the cause of death was “multisystem trauma due to motor vehicle accident.”
Katharine McPhee Foster, who placed second in season five of “American Idol” and performed a duet with Spence in season 19, announced her death on her Instagram story.
Spence began his “Idol” adventure with a rendition of “Diamonds” by Rihanna during his audition for Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. Before the judges sent him to Hollywood, Richie gave him a standing ovation and called him an “undeniable star.”
Spence sang “Georgia on My Mind,” “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and “Stand Up” during the season 19 finale. Although his performance moved the judges, Spence garnered fewer votes than Chayce Beckham, who ultimately won American Idol.