'American Idol' runner-up Willie Spence dies in car crash at 23

Spence came in second on "American Idol" season 19 against Chayce Beckham.

October 12, 2022, 1:54 PM

"American Idol" alum Willie Spence died in a car crash Tuesday. He was 23.

The singer, who was from Georgia, was driving eastbound on Interstate 24 in a 2019 Jeep Cherokee when he went off the road and crashed into the back of a tractor trailer that was stopped on the shoulder around 4 p.m. local time, according to the accident report from Tennessee Highway Patrol. He was wearing a seatbelt.

The official social media account for "American Idol" paid tribute to Spence, who was runner-up on season 19 of the singing competition show in 2021, by sharing his audition of "Diamonds" by Rihanna.

"We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence," the post's caption read. "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."

"American Idol" judge Katy Perry reacted to the news in the comments, writing, "I love you Willie… purest soul. Sing with the angels my darling."

Chayce Beckham, who won against Spence on season 19, shared a lengthy tribute to his Instagram, writing, "It's hard to find the words to say here, other than I loved Willie very much. He was a good sweet soul, and a warm beam of light in a cold and dark world that needed him so much."

"I think Willie had a voice that God gave him specifically to spread his message, when Willie sang gospel it could make you cry," he continued. "Willie also had a laugh that could make you melt, an honest humor you couldn't help but love, and the biggest heart you could imagine all wrapped up into one human. His larger than life energy was infectious and I loved being around him."

Beckham ended his post by sending thoughts and prayers to Spence's family, friends and fans, writing, "I can't wait to sing with you in Paradise, where I know I'll see you again. Rest In Peace brother."