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Willie Spence, who came in second place on season 19 of American Idol in 2021, was tragically killed yesterday in a car crash in Tennessee. He was 23 years-old.

Minutes before he died, Spence posted a chilling video to his Instagram Story in which he belted out the Christian song “You Are My Hiding Place” from inside his vehicle. Seconds after the video was posted, Spence was killed when he slammed his car into a parked semitruck, according to Daily Mail.

Spence Passes Away

Spence’s death was confirmed by the local news outlet Douglas Now, which reported that the singer “passed away due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Tennessee.”

“We have no further details at this time. We extend our condolences to Willie’s family, friends, and fans,” the report continued. “He was an extraordinary talent and a ray of light to millions across the world. He will be missed.”

Spence’s biography on Eventbrite states that he launched his singing career at the age of 3, when he began performing at his grandfather’s church in Florida. He launched his popular YouTube channel around four years ago, garnering 591,000 followers who worked hard to make his singing videos go viral.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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In February of 2021, Spence auditioned for American Idol by reforming “Diamonds” by Rhianna. During his audition, Spence could not help but gush over how much he loves performing. 

“I do this for me, but not only for me, I do this for my family,” he explained to the judges. “They’ve always supported me. They’ve been there from the very beginning.”

Spence then sailed through the competition until he came in second to Chayce Beckham on finale night. Watch Spence’s audition for yourself in the video below. 

Related: Former “American Idol” Contestant Caleb Kennedy Arrested For Fatal DUI Crash

Katharine McPhee Honors Spence

Katharine McPhee, who came in second on season 5 of American Idol and performed with Spence during his finale, took to her own Instagram Story to honor him after news of his death broke.

“I received very tragic news tonight,” she wrote alongside a clip of her meeting Spence. “Sweet @williespenceofficial passed away in a car accident. Only 23 years old.”

“Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised. God rest your soul Willie,” she added, according to US Weekly. “It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you.”

While meeting with Spence during his time on American Idol, McPhee disclosed that she had bonded with the young singer over losing loved; dedicating musical performances to them.

“One of the things I think is really special about you and that I love about singers is their ability to make you feel like you’re telling a story,” McPhee told him.

Watch McPhee and Spence perform “The Prayer” during last year’s American Idol finale in the video below.

Further Tributes To Spence

McPhee later returned to Instagram to share Spence’s final performance in his car, saying, “You’re with Jesus now. God bless you. Thankful for the time we had.”

“Sweet Willie… you deserved the stars and the moon,” McPhee wrote on one of his previous posts. “I’m so sorry for the world to be robbed of more precious time with you. You were an absolute Angel, I know you are up there now with the rest of the angels. God rest your soul.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Film Director Randall Emmett, who considered Spence a friend, also took to social media to mourn the singer.

“My friend @williespenceofficial passed away today,” Emmett wrote on Instagram. “My heart is broken and my prayers go out to his family. I met Willie four ago after his amazing voice went viral on Youtube.”

“I was lucky to have him sing for me live at my home and other events, I will miss you my friend,” he added. “I know you touched so many of us. I’m heart broken. I will cherish our talks, Rest in Peace, god bless.”

Country music star Mickey Guyton paid tribute to Spence on Wednesday morning with a simple tweet, writing, “Dear God rip sweet Willie Spence.”

Spence’s Future Plans

Spence had been scheduled to travel to London in 2023 for the “London Band Week” alongside the SOS Warriors Marching Band from Florida.

“I will be singing the National Anthem with the band during the week long competition,” he gleefully announced two months ago.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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It’s devastating that Spence will never have the chance to show off his patriotism on the global stage with this performance. His death serves as a reminder that life is way too short, and his final video can serve as a comfort to his loved ones that he is with God now. 

Rest in peace, Willie Spence.

Next: Former Miss America Auditions For ‘American Idol’ With ‘Jesus Take The Wheel’

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