Willie Spence, a 23-year-old singer who last year captivated “American Idol” judges and viewers with his powerful voice, died on Tuesday following a car crash, the Deseret News reported.

Tributes to Spence — including from his “American Idol” family — began flooding social media shortly after the news.

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‘American Idol’ tributes to Willie Spence

“American Idol” judge Luke Bryan, who told the singer he was “going to save people’s lives” with his voice, said Spence would “truly be missed.”

“Willie really did light up every room he walked into,” Bryan shared on Twitter. “He could change the mood instantly when he started singing. He will truly be missed.”

During his time on the show, Spence performed “The Prayer” with singer-songwriter and former “Idol” star Katharine McPhee, leading “Idol” judge Lionel Richie to call Spence “Willie Pavarotti,” People reported.

“Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised,” McPhee wrote on Instagram, according to People. “God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you.”

Spence finished Season 19 of “American Idol” as runner-up to singer-songwriter Chayce Beckham. The “American Idol” winner shared a lengthy post about getting to know Spence on the show.

“It’s hard to find the words to say here, other than I loved Willie very much,” Beckham shared in a post on Instagram. “He was a good sweet soul, and a warm beam of light in a cold and dark world that needed him so much. When willie sang I swear it would shake a whole room. I think Willie had a voice that God gave him specifically to spread his message, when Willie sang gospel it could make you cry.

“Willie also had a laugh that could make you melt, an honest humor you couldn’t help but love, and the biggest heart you could imagine all wrapped up into one human. His larger than life energy was infectious and I loved being around him. ... I can’t wait to sing with you in Paradise, where I know I’ll see you again. Rest In Peace brother.”

Grace Kinstler, who finished third on “Idol” that season, also paid tribute to her fellow competitor.

“Willie, I’m sorry I don’t have more eloquent words to share for you right now. It doesn’t feel real,” Kinstler wrote on Instagram. “Thank you for your heart, and thank you for reminding all of us that there’s nothing more refreshing than being authentic and keeping it 100% at all times. I will miss your laugh, the face you’d make when you didn’t like something or felt uncomfortable, and most of all, the smiles you’d put on the faces and hearts of everyone around you the moment you’d enter a room. Rest easy, love you lots, friend.”


Willie Spence on ‘American Idol’

During Spence’s audition for “American Idol,” judge Katy Perry asked the singer from Georgia where he wanted to be in five years.

“I just want my voice to reach the world and just share my gift,” Spence responded. “Hopefully win a Grammy one day, that’s where I see myself in five years. … It’s gonna take hard work, but I feel like I can do it.”

To date, Spence’s audition for “American Idol” has nearly 4 million views on YouTube.

“I will cherish forever the times I’ve gotten to watch you perform like 20 feet away from me,” Bryan said during Spence’s run on the show, per the Deseret News. “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.”

Below are some of Spence’s top performances on “American Idol”: