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Lynyrd Skynyrd Member Looks Back on Tragic Plane Crash 45 Years Later
Lynyrd Skynyrd Member Looks Back on Tragic Plane Crash 45 Years Later,It has been 45 years since the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines, as well as assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, Captain Walter McCreary, and First Officer William John Gray. Recently, former Lynyrd Skynyrd [...]

Lynyrd Skynyrd Member Looks Back on Tragic Plane Crash 45 Years Later

It has been 45 years since the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines, as well as assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, Captain Walter McCreary, and First Officer William John Gray. Recently, former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle took time to speak with Forbes and look at the fatal crash, offering his best recollection of what he experienced that fateful day. “It’s been 45 years since the plane crash, but it seems like yesterday,” he said. “And I think about it every day.”

On October 20, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd performed at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina. Following the concert, the band boarded a Convair CV-240 airplane that was to take them to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a concert at Louisiana State University. However, the plane ran out of fuel near the end of the flight and crashed in a rural area of Louisiana. “I went into survival mode,” Pyle recalled, jumping right into what he remembered about the plane crash. “I was going back and forth from the cockpit to the cabin, talking to the pilots, telling everybody to put out their cigarettes, turn off any lights, and conserve any power we had. I didn’t have time to think, oh my God, we’re having a plane crash, but I knew it was serious.”

Notably, Pyle’s account of the incident was depicted in Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash, a semi-biographical 2020 film about the incident. “In the movie, it shows some of the band freaking out because a couple of guys got really mad at our pilot and co-pilot for making the terrible mistakes that got us into this position,” he said. “So, there was some anger, but for the most part everybody was calm, cool, and collected. Still, we were fretting. I mean everybody was going, ‘Oh s—, we’re going down.'”

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Among his memories, Pyle recalls his final interaction with Van Zant, sharing, “Ronnie went to the back of the plane, and I remember thinking to myself, that’s a good idea. You’re going to the back of the plane where it’s probably a little safer. But then, he came back forward. He stopped at my seat, did the old hippie handshake, then gave me a beautiful smile. Ronnie had a great smile.” Growing emotional, Pyle grew teary-eyed, then saying, “And then he went forward. He had a pillow in his hand. And that’s the last time I saw Ronnie.”