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CLARA MOSCHINI

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It happened today: forty years ago the airplane crash that killed the Lynyrd Skynyrd's leader

Rome, Italy - It was on October 20, 1977 and on board of the Convair CV-300 there was also the all rock band

On October 20, 1977, a Convair CV-240 airplane chartered by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from L&J Company of Addison, Texas, ran out of fuel and crashed in Gillsburg, Mississippi, near the end of its flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Lead vocalist/founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve's older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray all died as a result of the crash. Twenty others survived. Three days after releasing their album Street Survivors, Lynyrd Skynyrd's chartered Convair CV-240 airplane ran out of fuel near the end of their flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The band had just performed at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium and were to play at Louisiana State University upon arriving in Baton Rouge. Upon realizing that the plane had insufficient fuel, the pilots were going to attempt an emergency landing on a small rural airstrip. Despite their efforts, they did not make it and the plane crashed in a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi. It was later discovered that the very same Convair CV-240 involved in the crash had earlier been inspected by members of Aerosmith's flight crew for possible use in 1977, but it was rejected because it was felt that neither the plane nor the crew were up to standards. Aerosmith's assistant chief of flight operations, Zunk Buker, told of observing pilots McCreary and Gray sharing a bottle of Jack Daniel's while he and his father inspected the plane. Aerosmith's touring family were quite shaken after receiving word of the crash, as Steven Tyler and Joe Perry had pressured their management into renting that specific plane for use on their 1977 American tour. The subsequent NTSB report listed "an engine malfunction of undetermined nature" in that same engine as a contributing factor in the crash. After the accident, the NTSB removed, inspected, and tested the right engine's ignition magneto and found it to be operating normally, concluding, "No mechanical or electrical discrepancies were found during the examination of the right magneto". The inspection also determined that "All of the fuel cross-feed and fuel dump valves were in the closed position". "The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was fuel exhaustion and total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply. Contributing to the fuel exhaustion were inadequate flight planning and an engine malfunction of undetermined nature in the right engine which resulted in "torching" and higher-than-normal fuel consumption", according to the NTSB detailted accident report.

fra/pec - 1207930

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