According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Spence was driving east on Interstate 24 in Marion County, Tennessee when his SUV ran into the back of a tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder of the highway.
A crash report noted that Spence suffered serious injuries despite wearing a seat belt. The 68-year-old driver of the tractor-trailer was uninjured.
On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Spence’s family held a news conference outside his grandmother’s home in Riviera Beach, Florida where his cousin, Sabrena Cooper, shared he memories of the late singer, “Willie was our gentle giant. He had such a soft demeanor but a very, very powerful voice. When he opened his mouth and lifted the Lord in song, many would just stop in their tracks to listen to him. Now Willie is in heaven, singing the lead in the heaven’s choir”.
A video featuring Spence’s “American Idol” audition was posted on the show’s verified Instagram account paid tribute to the singer with the caption: “We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence. 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.”Spence was the runner-up of ‘American Idol’ Season 19. Before “Idol” Spence went viral after a 2017 video of him singing an a-cappella version of Rihanna‘s hit Diamonds in his Dunwoody, Georgia high school class was posted on YouTube – That video currently has over 15 million views.
He sang the same song for his 2021 “Idol” audition, leaving judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan stunned. During the audition Perry asked Spence about his plans for the future, “think about the voice you have cause you know it stops people in their tracks, this is the magic you have, in five years what do you want it to look like? In your wildest dreams, if nothing was standing in your way?”
Spence’s response saw simple, “I just want my voice to reach the world and just share my gift. Hopefully winning a Grammy one day. That’s where I see myself in five years.”
Willie Spence was 23 years old.