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“American Idol” season 19 runner-up Willie Spence died in a car accident

CHATTANOOGA, TEN — ‘American Idol’ season 19 runner-up Willie Spence has died in a car accident in Tennessee.

The 23-year-old was killed Tuesday after hitting the rear of a semi-truck that was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 24 East near Chattanooga, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol report.

Both drivers were wearing seat belts and the truck driver was not injured, the accident report said.

Spence took second place on “American Idol” in Spring 2021.

“We are devastated by the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence. He was a true talent who lit up every room he walked in and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones,” the competition show wrote on its social accounts.

Spence, then 21, received multiple standing ovations from judges throughout the season for his signature booming voice.

“You just got the magic, mate,” Luke Bryan told him after a performance.

He grew up in Douglas, Georgia and learned to sing at the age of 6 at his grandfather’s church in Florida.

On “Idol,” Spence shared some of his struggles with his health – he had been hospitalized in March 2020 and had lost over 180 pounds before the competition.

Spence faced winner Chayce Beckham and third-place finisher Grace Kinstler in the season 19 finale.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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