Singer Willie Spence, runner-up in Season 19 of “American Idol,” died on Tuesday at the age of 23.
Spence passed away from injuries sustained during a car accident while in Tennessee, according to an update from his hometown news outlet, DouglasNow, in Douglas, Georgia. No other details were shared regarding the accident.
“I received very tragic news tonight,” fellow “American Idol” singer Katharine McPhee posted to her Instagram Story video after discovering the news. “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.”
— Shaderoomed (@shaderoomed) October 12, 2022
Spence was known for impressing judges in 2021 during his audition for the hit show, singing Rihanna’s “Diamonds.”
“I do this for me, but not only for me, I do this for my family,” Spence told the judges. “They’ve always supported me. They’ve been there from the very beginning.”
All three judges voted yes for Spence, sending him to the next round in Hollywood where he became part of the top 24 finalists, and eventually reached the final round.
I will never forget this day! I’m so glad I decided to sing this song “Diamonds” by Rihanna 🎶✨ pic.twitter.com/6w4SomyRUz
— williespenceofficial (@Williespence) December 28, 2017
The young singer would also be known for singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Set Fire to Rain.” During the final, Spence sang “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles, “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, and “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo.
Spence ultimately finished second only to Chayce Beckham, who won the final with the most votes during the socially distanced season. Grace Kinstler finished in third place.
Reactions across social media quickly offered a variety of tributes in memory of Spence.
“Willie Spence passing away makes me sick to my stomach man,” one user shared.
Willie Spence passing away makes me sick to my stomach man 😭
— sommer ☀️ (@_DearJune) October 12, 2022
“[W]hat a talented young man with a beautiful voice! sending heartfelt condolences & continued prayers to his family and loved ones,” another user wrote.
RIP to Willie Spence 🕊
what a talented young man with a beautiful voice!
sending heartfelt condolences & continued prayers to his family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/LgXebrHDWX
— TRBD 🩸 (@theRNBdrop) October 12, 2022
“[W]oke up to see that @Williespence passed away.. you JUST posted a video singing gospel a few hours ago. you literally sang your way to heaven. rest peacefully,” another user tweeted.
woke up to see that @Williespence passed away.. you JUST posted a video singing gospel a few hours ago. you literally sang your way to heaven😇. rest peacefully🥺❤️🕊.
— M.Roseee🍁🖤. (@mroseee___) October 12, 2022