(CHATTANOOGA, TN)- Palm Beach County native Willie Spence, a finalist on season 19 of American Idol, died in a car crash on Tuesday afternoon in Marion County, Tennessee.
He was 23.
Spence spent his early childhood in Riviera Beach but later moved to Georgia.
His family maintained ties to the area and his parents had recently returned to Palm Beach County.
Social media tributes to the singer were making the rounds online Wednesday.
Willie really did light up every room he walked into. He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed. https://t.co/XTqm65UJu0
— Luke Bryan (@lukebryan) October 12, 2022
The City of Riviera Beach has learned of the passing of City native Willie Spence. Today the City mourns with Willie’s family. Willie Spence was our community’s beloved American Idol and we will miss him dearly. pic.twitter.com/JaeroBDkcZ
— City of Riviera Beach, FL. (@Rivierabch) October 12, 2022
— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) October 12, 2022
Spence was travelling eastbound on Interstate 24 near Chattanooga, TN, heading for his home in Atlanta, when he struck the rear end of a tractor trailer stopped on the shoulder according to Tennessee Highway Patrol.
He was apparently wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash but was still fatally wounded.
Among the songs he performed on the show Spence sang Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, ‘Diamonds’ by Rhianna and ‘Georgia on My Mind’ by Ray Charles.