Luke Bryan Mourns the Loss of Former ‘American Idol’ Runner Up Willie Spence

by Taylor Cunningham
(Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)

American Idol judge Luke Bryan is remembering Willie Spence following the news that the Season 19’s runner-up tragically lost his life on Oct. 11.

“Willie really did light up every room he walked into,” Bryan wrote on Twitter. “He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed.”

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Willie Spence died in a car crash along Interstate 24 in Marion County near Chattanooga. The singer was driving his Jeep Cherokee when he veered off the road and hit a tractor-trailer that had parked on the shoulder.

Reports say that Spence was wearing his seatbelt at the time. And the driver of the other vehicle was not injured. Officials have not filed any charges.

Authorities pronounced Spence dead at the scene, and the Marion County Medical Examiner later listed his cause of death as”multisystem trauma due to motor vehicle accident.” The Florida-born singer was only 23.

Luke Bryan and His ‘American Idol’ Castmates Remember Willie Spence

Willie Spence came in second place during last year’s American Idol competition, but he first jumped to stardom when he was only 17.

In 2017, a video went viral that showed Willie Spence singing Rihanna’s hit Diamonds with his high school choir. The video has earned more than 15 million views on YouTube. And it caught the eye of Steve Harvey, who invited him to sing on his daytime talk show.

Willie Spence went on to grab a ticket to Hollywood after impressing Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan during his American Idol audition.

“When you think about your future, and you think about the voice you have cause you know it stops people in their tracks,” Perry said at the time. “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?”

“I just want my voice to reach the world and just share my gift,” he answered. “Hopefully winning a Grammy one day. That’s where I see myself in five years.”

During the show, Spence forged close friendships with castmates like Luke Bryan and his also his mentor, Katharine McPhee Foster, who was American Idol’s Season 5 runner-up.

It was McPhee Foster who first broke the news to fans. In an Instagram story, on Tuesday night, she wrote, “I received very tragic news tonight. Sweet @williespenceofficial passed away in a car accident. Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised. God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you.”