Vintage Video: News Reports on the Plane Crash, Thirty Years Ago, That Killed Rick Nelson

Thirty years ago today, Rick Nelson and six other people died on a flight from Guntersville, AL to Dallas, TX from a fire on Nelson's Douglas DC-3.

Nelson had played shows in Florida and was scheduled for a New Year's day show in Dallas but, with a couple of days off, didn't want to have to fly home and back out to Dallas. Not a fan of flying, Nelson chose, instead, to work with his friend Pat Upton of the Spiral Staircase (right), who owned a club in Guntersville. They scheduled a show for December 30, with Nelson playing for the door, just so the band had somewhere to go in the short time between their Florida and Texas appearances.

The next day, Nelson, his companion Helen Blair, bassist Patrick Woodward, drummer Rick Intveld, keyboardist Andy Chapin, guitarist Bobby Neal, road manager Donald Clark Russell and two pilots, Ken Ferguson and Brad Rank, flew towards Dallas but, according to reports, not far out of Texas realized that there was smoke in the cabin of the private plane.

The two pilots, who survived the flight, managed to land the plane although it was engulfed in flames. They escaped through the windows with heavy burns but everyone else on the flight was killed.

Initial news reports said that Nelson had been freebasing cocaine but that was proven false with one of the pilots pointing towards a malfunctioning cabin heater. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) agreed that the heater was the most likely reason for the fire although there was no definitive evidence.

Just over two years later, Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here are reports about the crash:




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