Pop Star Aaliyah Dead in Plane Crash

ByABC News

Aug. 27, 2001 -- U.S. investigators in the Bahamas began a probe to find the cause of the accident that killed R&B singer and actress Aaliyah and eight others en route to Miami on Saturday night. Engine failure is suspected.

Investigators are leaning toward engine failure as the cause of the accident, The New York Post is reporting that the Cessna's pilot and the singer's video crew got into a heated argument before takeoff over the weight of the equipment and passengers.

The pilot argued the plane was dangerously overloaded, but eventually gave in and took off, fellow pilot Lewis Key told the tabloid. But Key added that the pilot also had trouble getting one of his engines started — another suggestion that engine failure may have led to the tragedy.

The Cessna 402 crashed in perfect weather Saturday night shortly after takeoff in the Bahamas, where the 22-year-old singer/actress was shooting a music video. Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to arrive in the Bahamas today.

Multi-Platinum Artist Died Instantly

Investigators believe Aaliyah died instantly in the crash. One victim was found alive, but later died in a Miami hospital.

The other passengers killed in the crash were Scott Gallin, 41; Keith Wallace, 49, of Los Angeles; Douglas Kratz, 28, a representative for Virgin Records and Eric Foreman, 29, both of Hollywood, California; Gina Smith, 29, of New Jersey; andChristopher Maldonado, 32, of New York. The pilot, identified only as L. Marael, was also killed, and Anthony Dodd, 34, of Los Angeles, died in the hospital on Sunday.

Aaliyah, a multi-platinum selling artist, earned Grammy nominations for her songs "Try Again" and "Are You That Somebody." She made her acting debut last year with a starring role in the Jet Li film Romeo Must Die, was slated to appear in the upcoming sequels to The Matrix. She had recently finished shooting Queen of the Damned, based on the Anne Rice vampire novel, in which she played Queen Akasha.

Promising Career Ahead

"I think Aaliyah was the next Jennifer Lopez, the next Whitney Houston, the next Madonna, the next Janet Jackson," said Emil Wilbekin, editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine.

"She was a great dancer, she was a great singer and she had a great attitude and people liked working with her and people genuinely liked her."

Wilbekin said he watched her grow from a 15-year-old teen singer to a multi-platinum selling artist and actress.

"It's just been really amazing to watch her grow," he said. "Aaliyah really represented for young people someone who was very hard working, someone who was very driven, someone who had this dream being a great entertainer, a singer and an actress. And at the young age of 22, was actually achieving those dreams and was extremely successful."

In fact, before Brandy, Brittany, Christina et al there was this hugely talented, 15-year-old R&B chaunteuse from Detroit who mixed R&B and Hip Hop and caused quite a stir in the music world. On her latest records, her music was evolving from the punchy, pop-influenced Hip Hop and R&B to a more mature, introspective sound.

Quincey Jones: 'I Loved Her'

Her debut album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, released when she was only 15, went gold. It was produced by R&B crooner R. Kelly and featured Hip Hop elite Timbaland and Missy Elliott.

Her second album If Your Girl Only Knew went double platinum.

"[Aaliyah] was like one of my daughters, she was one of the sweetest girls in theworld," said Grammy-winning producer, arranger and composer Quincy Jones told the Associated Press. "She vacationed with me and my family together in Fiji. I loved her and respected her and I am absolutely devastated."

She was celebrating her third album, the self-titled Aaliyah released this summer.

"She was one of those talents that you just wanted to see more of," said Rashod Ollison, a music critic for the Journal News of White Plains, NY.

The Brooklyn native moved to Detroit when she was five and, at 11, began singing at a local church. She soon began performing in Las Vegas with Gladys Knight, whose ex-husband Barry Hankerson, was her uncle.She is survived by her mother, father and brother.

ABCNEWS Radio contributed to this report.

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