‘American Idol’ runner-up Willie Spence, 23, dies in car crash

MARION COUNTY, Tenn. — Willie Spence, the 2021 “American Idol” runner-up in the competition series’ 19th season, died Tuesday from injuries sustained in a Tennessee car crash. He was 23.

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According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the crash happened around 4 p.m. on eastbound Interstate 24 near Chattanooga, WSB-TV reported.

Spence’s death was first confirmed by local news outlet, based in Spence’s hometown of Douglas, Georgia.

According to the accident report, obtained by WSB, Spence was driving a Jeep Cherokee when he went off the road and crashed into a car that was stopped on the shoulder. That driver, identified as 68-year-old Raymond Kresl, was not injured.

A family member confirmed to TMZ late Tuesday that Spence had a flat tire at some point Tuesday but had fixed the problem and was en route home to Atlanta from Tennessee. The family source told the entertainment news outlet that Spence crashed into a tractor-trailer that was parked on the side of the road.

Just hours before his death, Spence posted a video on Instagram of him singing a worship song called “You Are My Hiding Place,” WSB reported.

Singer Katharine McPhee, who performed a duet with Spence of the song “The Prayer,” written by McPhee’s husband David Foster during a Season 19 appearance, tweeted her condolences, noting “Sweet @williespenceofficial passed away in a car accident. Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised.”