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‘American Idol’ star Willie Spence has died

The ‘American Idol’ runner-up was 23

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Willie Spence on the singing competition series “American Idol” in Los Angeles.

This image released by ABC shows contestant Willie Spence on the singing competition series “American Idol” in Los Angeles on May 2, 2021. Spence, 23, died Tuesday after hitting the rear of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 24 East near Chattanooga, according to news outlets, which cited a Tennessee Highway Patrol report.

Eric McCandless, ABC via Associated Press

Willie Spence, an “American Idol” runner-up who Luke Bryan said would “save people’s lives” with his powerful voice, has died, according to multiple reports. He was 23.

How did ‘American Idol’ runner-up Willie Spence die?

Spence, a singer from Georgia, died following a car accident in Tennessee on Tuesday, NBC News reported.

The singer’s vehicle “left the roadway” and ran into the back of a tractor trailer that was stopped on the shoulder of the road, according to NBC News. The driver of the tractor trailer was not injured, reported WSB-TV, an Atlanta station affiliated with ABC. The Tennessee Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.

Shortly before his death, Spence shared a video of him performing the worship song “You Are My Hiding Place” on Instagram.

Willie Spence appeared on ‘American Idol’

Spence was 21 when he appeared on the “American Idol” stage, wowing the show’s judges and audience with his powerful voice during every single round of Season 19.

“I can’t even stand still,” “Idol” judge Lionel Richie said after Spence performed Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” to advance to the show’s top 12, the Deseret News reported. “It was a brilliant performance.”

“Every note was thoughtful,” Katy Perry added. “It was like God was working through you and it was beautiful to see you step into your power.”

Spence also had all three judges floored with his rendition of “The Lion King” classic “Circle of Life,” which advanced him to the show’s top seven.

“You just have the magic,” Bryan said, per the Deseret News. “When you hit those big notes, man, it’s the best stuff in the world.”

“You have that voice,” Richie added. “You could sing the phonebook and literally make it yours.”

When Spence reached the competition’s top five, Bryan said he would “always cherish” the singer’s performances, the Deseret News reported.

“I will cherish forever the times I’ve gotten to watch you perform like 20 feet away from me,” Bryan said. “I will always cherish this time getting to watch you sing. ... It’s a special thing, week after week, and I don’t want it to end.”

“You’re literally going to save people’s lives with your voice,” the judge later said when Spence reached the top three, per the Deseret News.

Spence finished his time on “American Idol” as runner-up to Chayce Beckham.

“We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence,” “American Idol” shared in a statement Wednesday on social media. “He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed.”