On Thursday, October 20, 1977, just three days after the release of Street Survivors and five shows into their most successful headlining tour Lynyrd Skynyrd boarded their chartered Convair 240 airplane following a performance at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina.
Due to a faulty engine, the airplane tail number N55VM built in 1947 ran low on fuel and the pilots were diverted to the McComb-Pike County Airport. After running out of fuel they attempted an emergency landing before crashing in a heavily forested area five miles northeast of Gillsburg, Mississippi a little before 7 p.m.
Six persons were killed on impact, Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines along with assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray. 20 passengers survived the crash but suffered serious injuries. The official cause of the crash was engine failure due to fuel exhaustion. Aircraft destroyed on impact during emergency landing attempt.
Here is the google maps link to the location of the crash site…
The same Convair 240 had been inspected by the Aerosmith flight crew for possible use in the early summer of 1977, but was rejected because they felt that neither the plane nor the crew were up to standards.
Fans still flock to the heavily wooded location and it has become a pseudo memorial to the band.
Following the crash and the ensuing press, Street Survivors became the band’s second platinum album and reached No. 5 on the U.S. album chart. The original album cover had featured a photograph of the band, particularly Steve Gaines, engulfed in flames. Out of respect for the deceased (and at the request of Steve’s widow Teresa Gaines), MCA Records withdrew the original cover and replaced it with a similar image of the band against a simple black background.
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