Ricky Nelson Cause Of Death: Everything You Must Know!



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On December 31, 1985, American pop star Ricky Nelson lost his life while attempting to crash land the plane carrying his band. The Douglas DC-3 aircraft was brought down in midair outside of De Kalb, Texas, by a fire that is believed to have started in a malfunctioning in-cabin heater and quickly spread. The disaster claimed the lives of Nelson and six other people, including many band members and his girlfriend. Both pilots made it through.

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About The Backstory

On his parents’ television program, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Nelson began his musical career as a teenager. In the 1960s, he had a streak of pop, rock, and country hit songs, but in the 1970s, his career came to an end. Nelson was on a comeback tour in 1985.

Ricky Nelson detested flying but insisted on taking a bus instead. He spent $118,000 buying a fourteen-seat 1944 Douglas DC-3 (N711Y) that had formerly belonged to the DuPont family and Jerry Lee Lewis in May 1985 after deciding he needed a private aircraft. The aircraft had a history of mechanical issues after Nelson obtained ownership of it. In one instance, an engine failure required Nelson’s band to push the jet off the runway. Nelson was unable to attend the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois, due to a defective ignition magneto in a separate incident that occurred in September 1985.

ricky nelson cause of death

The Accident

Nelson and the band embarked on a three-stop tour in the southern United States on December 26, 1985. Nelson and the other band members left Guntersville for a New Year’s Eve celebration in Dallas after performances in Orlando, Florida, and Guntersville, Alabama. On December 31, at approximately 5:14 p.m. CST, the aircraft made a crash landing northeast of Dallas, outside of De Kalb, Texas, in a cow pasture less than two miles (3.2 km) from a landing strip, striking trees on the way down. Nine people were inside, but seven of them died.

Former member of the band Steppenwolf Andy Chapin was one of those who perished.

Seven Fatalities Resulted From The Collision

The Stone Canyon Band, which serves as Ricky Nelson’s backup band, is composed of the following members: Andy Chapin, 30, on piano; Rick Intveld, 22, on drums; Bobby Neal, 38, on guitar; and Patrick Woodward, 35, on bass.

Brad Rank, the pilot, and Kenneth Ferguson, the co-pilot, both of whom survived the crash, were also on board.

The Interment

The transfer of Nelson’s remains from Texas to California went astray, postponing the funeral for several days. 250 mourners attended the burial ceremonies at the Church of the Hills in Los Angeles on January 6, 1986, while 700 fans gathered outside. “Colonel” Tom Parker, Connie Stevens, Angie Dickinson, and hundreds of other actors, authors, and artists were among the attendees. Days later, Nelson was interred in a private ceremony at the Hollywood Hills section of Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

ricky nelson cause of death


Nelson’s ex-wife, Kristin Nelson, attempted to seize control of his estate from David Nelson, the administrator, and threatened to sue the Nelsons for the proceeds of her ex-life husband’s insurance policy. A judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court denied her request. Ricky Nelson left nothing for his ex-wife and left his whole inheritance to his children. Rumors and press articles falsely claimed that cocaine freebasing was one of numerous potential causes of the plane crash only a few days after the funeral. Following its inquiry, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) denied the accusations.

The Examination Of The Incident

Some witnesses attested that the jet was in flames while still in the air, however reports differ as to whether it was on fire before it crashed. Jim Burnett, the chairman of the NTSB, asserted that despite the jet being covered in smoke, it managed to land and come to a stop before being consumed by flames. After a year-long inquiry, the NTSB came to the conclusion that, while the exact cause of the disaster was still unknown, it was likely caused by a fire started by the aircraft’s gasoline-powered cabin heater “acting up.”

The Pilots Were Interrogated

Pilots Brad Rank and Ken Ferguson provided divergent accounts of significant events when questioned by the NTSB. Ferguson claimed that after takeoff, the cabin heater started to malfunction. Ferguson claimed that Rank urged him numerous times to turn the heater back on as Rank continually went to the back of the aircraft to try to fix the heater. I once refused to turn it on, Ferguson admitted. He then on, “I was becoming more tense. I believed we shouldn’t be tampering with that heater while travelling.” Ferguson and Rank managed to escape the wreckage of the jet after it crashed while being severely burned. There was no answer as they yelled into the passenger compartment. Fearing an explosion, Ferguson and Rank moved away from the plane. Don’t tell anyone about the heater, Rank reportedly commanded Ferguson, according to Ferguson.

ricky nelson cause of death

But Rank had a different account to tell. In the middle of the cabin, where Nelson and Blair were sitting, he claimed to have seen smoke while checking on the other passengers. Rank claimed that he walked to the back of the aircraft to check the heater, observed no smoke, and discovered that the heater was cool to the touch even though he never indicated a malfunctioning heater. He claimed that after turning on an automated fire extinguisher and opening the fresh-air inlets in the cabin, he went back to the cockpit, where Ferguson was already requesting directions to the closest airstrip from air traffic authorities.

The NTSB chastised Rank for failing to follow the in-flight fire checklist, opening the fresh air valves rather than keeping them closed, failing to advise the passengers to utilise additional oxygen, and failing to use the portable fire extinguisher that was in the cockpit to put out the fire. Although the board acknowledged that these actions might not have avoided the collision, “they would have boosted the passengers’ chances of life.” One of the first responders to the scene, firefighter Lewis Glover, said the following, which the NTSB’s statements seemed to confirm: “At the front of the aircraft, all the bodies are present. They appeared to be attempting to flee the fire.”

The Possible Explanation

An inspection revealed that a fire had started at or very close to the floor line on the right side of the aft cabin area. The NTSB report, which faults the pilots for failing to assist the passengers, and the firefighters’ report, which states that all of the passengers were at the front of the aircraft trying to exit the plane, disprove early reports that the passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing. It was unable to identify the fire’s source of ignition or fuel. Another account claims that the pilot stated that the crew continuously attempted to turn on the cabin heater before the fire broke out but that they were unsuccessful. The heating compartment’s access panel was discovered to be unlatched after the fire.

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