Aaliyah was one of the most famous women in the world back in 2001 when she was killed in a horror plane crash aged just 22. The singer/actress had jetted to the Bahamas to finish filming the video for her track Rock The Boat and was heading back to Miami on the evening of Saturday August 25, 2001. She boarded a 10-seat twin-engine Cessna 402B private jet bound for Opa-Locka, Florida along with seven members of her crew.
The star was accompanied by video director Douglas Kratz, 28, record label executive Gina Smith, 30, bodyguard Scott Gallin, 41, hairstylists Anthony Dodd, 34, and Eric Forman, 29, make-up artist Christopher Maldonado, 32, and her friend Keeth Wallace, 49. The plane was late arriving on Abaco Island, and the group were said to have been anxious to get going so they could make it back to Miami for the evening. Just a short hop across the water, the flight was due to take just an hour.
However, tragedy struck less than a minute after take-off when the jet fell from the sky and plummeted to the ground just 200 feet (60 m) from the runway. A witness on the ground later reported seeing the plane only get to between 60 and 100 feet from the ground before it crashed. Claude Sawyer, 25, was a charter pilot who was working on machinery close to the site of the accident and he described the devastation.
In Christopher John Farley's book Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, Sawyer is described as saying: "I saw the plane go up and then it banked to the left and nosed in. I've seen crashes before, but this was probably one of the worst ones. It was pretty devastating. The aircraft was broken into pieces and some of the seats were ejected from the aircraft."
An investigation into the crash was launched and an inquest into Aaliyah's death took place in the Bahamas. The inquest was carried out by Dr. Giovander Raju and he concluded that the singer died from severe burns, a blow to the head and severe shock. Dr. Raju also confirmed the star had a weak heart and would never have survived the shock even if she had been spared in the crash, He ruled:"[She] went into such a state of shock, even if she had survived the crash, recovery would have been near impossible." She was among six passengers who died at the scene, while three others died hours after the crash.
An investigation by America's National Transportation Safety Board concluded the plane had been overloaded at the time of take off. The pilot, Luis Morales III, was also called into question as a report by the Federal Aviation Administration alleged he was not approved to fly the aircraft, which was operated by Blackhawk Airways International. He'd also previously been charged with a drug offence in the US, and an autopsy found he had cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.
The tragedy sent the music business into mourning, and Aaliyah's body was returned to the US for her funeral. The service was private and held in New York. She has since been immortalised in the music of her famous friends, with stars including Jay Z paying tribute to her in songs.