Singer songwriter John Denver died on this date, October 11


Rick Busciglio

by Rick Busciglion, Swing and Big Band Examiner 11 October 2010

On Columbus Day 1997 singer-songwriter John Denver died in a plane crash. He was renting a home near Monterey, California and he purchased this particular plane the day before the accident.


John Denver & Rick Busciglio Photo: Rick Busciglio


It was called a “Long-Eze, serial number 54, number 228vs.” It was a two-seated fiberglass plane that had originally been built from a kit a few years earlier. Denver had already flown the plane into Monterey from Santa Maria, and on that particular Sunday afternoon he wanted to take it on a test spin down the coast.

Denver had practiced three touch and go landings – in which he swooped down to the runway and then pulled back up – before receiving the permission from the Monterey Airport to take the plane on the test spin. It was October 12, 1997.

This is what he was wearing: a baseball hat with “Yuma Rod and Gun Club” on it, green Haggar trousers (size 32/32), a multi color sweater, and cowboy boots.

The 53-year-old singer’s last words were a calm query about whether he had transmitted a four-digit code clearly. “Do you have it now?”

It was 5:28 p.m., and he was about 150 feet from shore, and 500 feet above the ocean when eyewitnesses heard a popping sound. A second or two later, they watched in horror as the plane plunged straight down into the water and broke apart on impact.

They found bits of John Denver floating in the debris about 20 minutes later. He was so badly mutilated that all they could tell was that it was a male. They scooped up what they could find in multiple garbage bags, but what was left weighed only 128 pounds. Parts of the plane continued to wash up for quite awhile.

Ultimately, the cause of the crash was the fact that Denver failed to refuel the tank. That, plus a lack of training. It seems that he was distracted from flying while trying to grab a handle controlling fuel flow.

Experts think he spent the last moments of his life trying frantically to switch from this main tank to the reserve one, not realizing that they were both empty.

They cremated what was left of him, and a representative of Parker Funeral Home took the ashes personally to Colorado. His funeral was held on Friday, October 17th, at the Faith Presbyterian Church in Aspen, Colorado. Over 2000 people, and John Denver’s horse Tonto showed up to the tribute, which included six airplanes flying overhead, rocking their wings in a salute.

Edited from “The Death of John Denver.”