Nothing compares to losing a loved one, and mourning the death of a beloved celebrity can be just as difficult. In honor of all the stars we've loved and lost, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at those who died too soon in the most heartbreaking, random and unbelievable ways… starting with Kobe Bryant. The Los Angeles Lakers star, regarded as one of the best players of all time, shockingly died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2019. He was 41. Nine people were killed in the tragedy, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Maria Onore. Reports said Kobe and Gianna were on the way to her basketball practice when the chopper crashed in Calabasas, California. (He often commuted by helicopter.) The helicopter erupted into flames after it went down. Keep reading to learn the stories of other celebrities who died in freak accidents…
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On Aug. 25, 2001, R&B singer-turned-actress Aaliyah and eight others boarded a twin-engine Cessna in the Bahamas to head to Miami after shooting her latest music video. Shortly after takeoff, the plane crashed in a fiery blaze, killing all but one on board (the lone survivor later died from his injuries). Investigators linked the crash to engine failure, while other reports indicated the plane's cargo load made it dangerously overweight. At the time of her death, Aaliyah, 22, had just made her acting debut in the crime thriller "Romeo Must Die" and had wrapped up filming the fantasy thriller "Queen of the Damned."
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Sometimes it's still hard to believe that Paul Walker is gone. On Nov. 30, 2013, Paul and his friend and business partner, Roger Rodas, were killed instantly when the Porsche they took for a spin during a daytime charity event crashed in Valencia, California, and erupted in flames. It was later determined that Roger was driving at a speed "between 80 and 93 mph at the time the car impacted a power pole and several trees," according to the final report from investigators. Paul, who was only 40 at the time, died from both trauma and severe burns. He left behind a daughter, Meadow Walker, who had turned 15 just weeks before the accident.
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Decades before a car accident would claim the life of Paul Walker, another bright young (and handsome) Hollywood star died in the same way. On Sept. 30, 1955, James Dean was on the cusp of becoming one of the hottest leading men in Hollywood. He'd filmed his first three movies but would only live to see one released in theaters. He and mechanic Rolf Wütherich got into James' Porsche and sped down California Highway 46 on their way to a car race in Salinas. The car struck another vehicle, causing James to break his neck and suffer massive internal injuries, killing him instantly. While it's believed that James was the driver during the fatal accident, an eyewitness claimed he saw Rolf behind the wheel immediately after. Rolf survived the crash but later died in another one in 1981.
On March 18, 2009, 45-year-old British film star Natasha Richardson died from a traumatic brain injury sustained while skiing just two days earlier. The actress, who was married to Liam Neeson, and one of their young sons were vacationing in Canada when she decided to take a skiing lesson for beginners. According to the instructor, Natasha fell and struck her head toward the end of the lesson but was in good spirits, joking about the accident immediately after. The instructor asked her to seek medical attention, but she refused. Hours later, Natasha developed a splitting headache and was rushed to a hospital in Montreal, where Liam, who was filming a movie in Toronto, joined her. According to Liam, Natasha's condition had significantly worsened. "I was told she was brain dead. And seeing this X-ray it was, like, 'Wow.' But obviously she was on life support and stuff. And I went in to her and told her I loved her. [I] said, 'Sweetie, you're not coming back from this.'" On March 17, Natasha was transferred to a hospital in New York, but sadly, she succumbed to her injuries the following day.
On July 16, 1999, the world was shocked to learn that John F. Kennedy Jr., wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and her sister, Lauren Bessette, were missing after their single-engine plane, piloted by John, failed to land in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, after leaving an airport in New Jersey. After five days of intensive searching, Navy divers located the wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean roughly seven miles from the coast. John's body was inside the fuselage while the women's bodies were found on the seabed nearby. The investigation found the crash was due to pilot error — John likely became disoriented while flying at night — ultimately causing the plane to slam into the water, killing them instantly.
At the time of her death on Aug. 31, 1997, Princess Diana of Wales was only 36 and still one of the most beloved members of the royal family, even though her divorce from Prince Charles had been finalized just a year earlier. She and her boyfriend, Egyptian billionaire Dodi Fayed, lost their lives because of a terrible accident in which their car, attempting to evade the paparazzi, sped away, ultimately crashing in a Paris tunnel, killing Dodi and the driver instantly. Diana, who was gravely injured, was rushed to the hospital where she soon died from cardiac arrest, leaving behind her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
"Star Trek" fans know Anton Yelchin as Chekov, the Russian math wiz on the U.S.S. Enterprise, from the trilogy of films that premiered beginning in 2009. Anton was a rising star when his life came to a sudden and unexpected end at age 27 on June 19, 2016, in what can only be called a freak accident. Investigators believe Anton left his vehicle running in his driveway when he walked down to check his mail. Either he failed to put the Jeep in park or the parking brake malfunctioned, causing the two-ton vehicle to roll backward, pinning the actor to a security fence and crushing him to death. It's believed Anton died within a minute of being struck. Anton's parents have since brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the vehicle manufacturer, Fiat Chrysler. The company has vigorously defended itself against the lawsuit, claiming Anton was at fault for his own death.
Joan Rivers might have been 81 when she died on Sept. 4, 2014, but according to all who knew and loved the comedienne and TV personality, she still had so much life left in her. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, alleges that her death was the result of mistakes made by a negligent surgical team during a routine endoscopy a week earlier. When Joan when into cardiac arrest during a procedure on her throat, the team attending the star waited 12 minutes to call 911 while the surgeon performing the minor operation reportedly "abandoned" Joan on the table. She lingered in intensive care for a week before ultimately dying from cerebral hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Troy Gentry was one half of the country music duo Montgomery Gentry and enjoying a wildly successful career when an impulse decision to board a helicopter in New Jersey for a joy ride led to his death at age 50 on Sept. 8, 2017. Troy's longtime music partner and best friend, Eddie Montgomery, shared that they'd been invited to take a helicopter tour shortly before their scheduled performance in Medford, New Jersey. Sadly, the engine of the two-seater helicopter Troy was riding in malfunctioned shortly after takeoff and crashed into a heavily wooded area, killing the pilot immediately and severely injuring Troy. He was rushed to the hospital, where he ultimately died with Eddie by his side. The duo had just wrapped up recording their newest album, "Here's To You," which Eddie released on Feb. 2, 2018, in honor of his friend and partner.
On Dec. 9, 2012, famed Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera — known as La Diva de la Banda (the Diva of Banda Music) — was killed in horrific plane crash in Mexico that also took the lives of four friends on board as well as the two pilots. An investigation into the crash found that one of the pilots, who was 78, was "too old for the license" he was given. They also noted the plane was "flying unevenly," had difficulty reaching cruising speed and had experienced earlier operational problems which the owner failed to report.
In a horrific twist of events, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes actually filmed her own death on April 25, 2002. The once troubled star, best known as one third of the hip-hop and R&B musical group TLC, was in Honduras on a spiritual retreat where she'd been filming herself for an upcoming documentary. Lisa was driving an SUV (and filming herself) with eight other passengers, when she lost control of the vehicle, causing it to tip. She sustained blunt force trauma to the head and died shortly after. Five years after her sudden and unexpected passing at 30, VH1 released the documentary Lisa was filming, including the final scene, which, out of respect to her family, didn't show the actual crash, but did feature the sounds of Lisa and her passengers screaming.
The popular '70s rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd suffered a fatal loss on Oct. 20, 1977, when a plane they chartered from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crashed in Mississippi, killing three members: Ronnie Van Zant (right), Steve Gaines (center) and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines (not pictured). Both the pilot and co-pilot also died in the accident, as did the band's assistant road manager, Dean Kilpatrick (also not pictured). Twenty other passengers on the plane, including original member Gary Rossington (left), survived the fatal crash.
Grace Kelly was a silver-screen legend-turned-Princess of Monaco who met an untimely end on Sept. 14, 1982, when she was only 52. The former actress was taking her daughter, Princess Stephanie, to Paris to start school when she missed a sharp turn on a narrow road, causing their vehicle to careen off the edge and plunge more than 100 feet. Although Grace and Stephanie survived the initial crash and were taken to the hospital, Grace suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died. Stephanie went on to make a full recovery but would not speak of the accident, not even with her family, until 1989 after working through the traumatic event in therapy.
Folk music legend John Denver, known for his hit songs like "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads," died on Oct. 12, 1997, when the plane he was flying ran out of fuel in California, crashing into Monterey Bay. The singer was only 53 years old and had years of experience flying and had even survived an earlier accident in 1989. Authorities stated that John was flying an experimental aircraft custom-made for him out of fiberglass and, at the time, he was "practicing takeoff and landing" near his Monterey Peninsula home.
Natalie Wood began her career in Hollywood as a child star most recognized for her role in the holiday classic "Miracle on 34th Street." Later graduating into an accomplished adult actress, Natalie would take the leading role in films like "West Side Story" and "Rebel Without a Cause." Sadly, on Nov. 29, 1981, when Natalie was just 43 years old, her life was cut short in a mysterious drowning accident while boating off the coast of California's Catalina Island. On the boat the night of her drowning was her husband, Robert Wagner, co-star and friend Christopher Walken, and the boat's captain, Dennis Davern. When Natalie's body was found, the coroner noted she had several bruises and scratches on her arms and neck, which were believed to have occurred before she drowned. She also had alcohol and medications in her system, leading them to rule the drowning "accidental." However, Dennis later revealed in 2011 that he believed Robert was responsible for Natalie's death, claiming the two fought shortly before she went overboard and that Robert had coerced him into lying to authorities the night of the accident. Robert and Christopher have both maintained that Natalie's drowning was an accident. In February 2018, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reopened the case and named Robert "a person of interest" in her death.
Steve Irwin — also known as "The Crocodile Hunter" — was a TV personality and animal conservationist beloved by children and adults alike. The Australian zookeeper built a reputation for successfully and skillfully handling some of the most dangerous animals in the wild, using the interactions to teach viewers about their lives and habitats. However, on Sept. 4, 2006, while filming a documentary titled "Ocean's Deadliest," Steve's life came to an end when a stingray stabbed him in the heart "hundreds of times" (according to a cameraman who witnessed the attack). Witnesses claimed Steve's last words were "I'm dying" before he succumbed to the stingray's potent venom. What's most shocking about Steve's death is that stingrays are not known to attack, even under duress, making this an unheard of freak accident. Steve, 44, left behind wife Terri, daughter Bindi Irwin (pictured) and son Robert Irwin, who've all carried on his legacy by continuing to champion conservation efforts as they help run the Australia Zoo.
Feb. 3, 1959, is widely known as "the day the music died" because on that date, three talented musicians were killed in a small plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa. J.P. Richardson (aka The Big Bopper, left), Buddy Holly (center) and Ritchie Valens (right) were all traveling to Fargo, North Dakota, en route to Moorhead, Minnesota, where they were scheduled to perform on their Winter Dance Party tour. Tired of traveling in freezing temperatures on an unheated bus, Buddy chartered a plane and asked his friends, Ritchie and J.P., if they wanted to travel with him. In the early-morning hours, the plane crashed just a few miles from where it took off. The initial investigation blamed the pilot (who also died) for the crash, but in February 2015, the case was reopened after a retired pilot suggested other factors, such as cargo weight, problems with the rudder and icing on the carburetor induction may have been responsible for the accident.
Charmayne Maxwell's Feb. 28, 2015, death is so tragic and unbelievable, it's making us all reconsider drinking wine in a glass. The American-Guyanese singer, who most famously performed with the '90s girl group Brownstone, died in her L.A. home after accidentally falling backward and dropping her wine glass. Coroners believe the glass broke right as Charmayne fell, causing two fatal puncture wounds in the back of her neck. She was found by her husband, record producer Carsten Soulshock, who rushed her to the hospital. Sadly, she died on the way, leaving behind Carsten and their 10-year-old son, Nicolaj.
The disappearance and alleged death of big-band leader Glenn Miller has proven to be one of the most intriguing Hollywood mysteries to date. The renowned performer joined the Army in 1942 at the height of his fame because he believed it was his patriotic duty. Due to his musical talent, Glenn was assigned to lead the Army Air Force Band, which traveled around Europe to various military bases where they'd perform for the troops. On Dec. 15, 1944, Glenn, needing to leave England to reach Paris for an upcoming performance, accepted a ride from Lt. Col. Norman Baessell. Unfortunately, their pilot wasn't given permission to fly due to heavy fog and freezing temperatures, but the Lt. Col. ordered the flight anyway. This fateful decision led an inexperienced pilot to fly an ill-equipped small plane over the English Channel, where the fuel intake froze, causing the plane to crash into the icy water, killing everyone on board. The Army, which was never able to recover Glenn's body, didn't release the news of his death until Dec. 24, leading to numerous conspiracy theories including a fanciful story that Glenn was involved in a secret plot to overthrow Hitler.
Considered one of the best blues guitarists in the nation, Stevie Ray Vaughan of the band Double Trouble was credited with the revival of blues in the 1980s. Sadly, on Aug. 27, 1990, at just 35, Stevie Ray died along with four others in a helicopter crash during a flight that was taking him and members of fellow musician Eric Clapton's entourage to Chicago for their next performance. Investigators found that the helicopter pilot, Jeff Brown, took a sharp left turn shortly after takeoff, causing them to crash into a ski slope, instantly killing everyone on board.
Sonny Bono rose to fame alongside former wife Cher in the '60s and '70s (the couple eventually divorced in 1975). In 1995, Sonny became a U.S. congressman for California's 44th district. It was while he was serving in office that Sonny decided to vacation at the Heavenly Ski Resort in Nevada, not far from Lake Tahoe. On Jan. 5, 1998, Sonny was reported missing at approximately 4:30 p.m. Two hours later, a ski patrol found his body. The singer-turned-politician had apparently crashed into a tree while skiing earlier in the day, causing massive head trauma that resulted in his death. Although Cher and Sonny had a bitter breakup years before, the singer-actress delivered a heartfelt, tearful eulogy for her former husband at his funeral, later saying his death made her realize how much he still meant to her.
If you've ever sung along to the song "Hallelujah" with a tear in your eye, chances are you were listening to the cover recorded by singer, songwriter and musician Jeff Buckley in 1994. The music star developed a cult-like following after releasing his first album and was at the height of his fame when, on May 29, 1997, he made a fateful decision to swim in the Mississippi River while in Nashville. A passing boat created a powerful current that sucked Jeff under, causing him to drown. He was 30. His body wasn't recovered until six days later. In 1998, his second album, "Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk," was released. It included songs Jeff had been working on at the time of his death.
Michael Hutchence was the face of Australian rock band INXS, which found worldwide fame following the release of their 1985 album, "Listen Like Thieves." The Grammy-nominated group suffered a massive blow on Nov. 22, 1997, when Michael, 37, was found dead and completely nude in his Sydney hotel room from an apparent hanging. While authorities initially believed Michael, who was being treated for depression, had committed suicide, his partner, Paula Yates, believed the rock star's death was accidental, caused while engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation during masturbation (a technique in which oxygen is restricted to heighten sexual pleasure). Paula, who later died of a heroin overdose, claimed the two had engaged in similar sex play during their relationship.
Another star who died under suspicious circumstances was "Kung Fu" actor David Carradine. On June 3, 2009, David was found hanging in his hotel room in Bangkok, dead from an apparent suicide. However, a later investigation determined that David had died accidentally while engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation. But David's ex-wife, Marina Anderson, believes the actor was actually murdered, claiming "David never flew solo" and that although he did enjoy "kinky sex," he always had a partner with him. She believes David might have attracted the wrong attention while in Thailand, possibly paying for someone to participate with him sexually, before something "went incredibly wrong."