An eyewitness has claimed that R&B singer and actress Aaliyah was given a sleeping pill and carried onto the small Cessna aircraft unconscious before it crashed in the Bahamas in 2001. Kingsley Russell, who was a teenager at the time and riding in Aaliyah’s taxi driven by his stepmom, alleges that the late singer was not comfortable boarding the aircraft that killed her.
Aaliyah passed away in 2001 at the age of 22 with eight others after a flight conveying them from a music video shoot crashed in the Bahamas.
Russell, in a new biography, “Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah,” by music journalist Kathy Iandoli, says he was just 13 at the time of the accident. He says his family ran a taxi company in the Abaco Islands and he was in the cab as his stepmom drove the singer and her team to the airport for their return flight to Miami. Russell claims Aaliyah did not want to board the aircraft after learning that it was overweight.
According to the Daily Beast, the pilot had reportedly explained that the aircraft would be too cumbersome with eight passengers including Aaliyah plus their cameras and bags. Russell says Aaliyah argued with her staff for hours about getting on the plane before she was handed a sleeping pill after having earlier complained of a headache while in the taxi.
“They took her out of the van; she didn’t even know she was getting boarded on a plane,” says Russell, the Daily Mail reported. “She went on the airplane asleep.”
Just after takeoff, the small, two-engine Cessna failed to gain altitude and crashed about 200 feet from the end of the runway, killing Aaliyah and her team. An autopsy revealed that the “Romeo Must Die” actress had suffered extensive burns and severe head trauma. A 2002 toxicology report said the pilot had faked his license and was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the crash. The tiny aircraft had also exceeded its maximum weight.
Earlier reports after the accident claimed that Aaliyah was bent on boarding the aircraft. “I remember when Aaliyah passed away, I was really upset,” Iandoli told the Daily Beast. “The story kept saying that she was adamant about getting on the plane. I was almost upset with her. Why did you want to get on that plane so badly?”
“The only thing I’ve taken with me is that after 20 years, I can finally say that Aaliyah didn’t want to get on the plane,” she added. “That makes me feel a little better, but not much. This didn’t have to happen. She should still be here, and I think that’s the saddest part about it.”
Aaliyah, full name Aaliyah Dana Haughton, lived the celebrity life venturing into acting, singing, and modeling. Her career took off at age 10 after appearing on a television show, Star Search. Shortly after, she signed to Jive Records and her uncle’s Blackground Records which introduced her to R. Kelly before her tragic death.