MARION COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Willie Spence, a talented singer who finished as the runner-up on American Idol last year, died Tuesday in a crash near Chattanooga. He was 23 years old.
According to a preliminary crash report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Spence was driving on eastbound I-24 around 4 p.m. when he crashed into a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder near mile marker 147 in Marion County.
Both drivers were wearing seatbelts, the crash report stated.
The Dunwoody, Georgia native finished in second place to Chayse Beckham during season 19 of “American Idol,” which aired in 2021.
“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence,” the show tweeted on Wednesday, Oct. 12. “He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones.”
Actress and singer-songwriter Katharine McPhee, another “American Idol” runner-up who mentored Spence during his run to the last stages of the competition, also posted a tribute to Spence on social media on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
📧 Have breaking come to you: Subscribe to News 2 email alerts →
“I received very tragic news tonight,” McPhee wrote. “@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. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you.”
According to Spence’s Instagram, he was set to perform in London, England for the first time next month.