'American Idol' Makes Statement Following Willie Spence's Death at 23

The American Idol family is in mourning Wednesday following the unexpected death of Willie Spence, the runner-up of Season 19. Spence, 23, died in a car accident in Tennessee. American Idol producers and Fremantle, the studio behind the ABC singing competition, sent their condolences to Spence's family.

"We are devastated about the passing of our beloved American Idol family member, Willie Spence," the Idol team wrote on Twitter. "He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed. We send our condolences to his loved ones." Fremantle U.S. responded to the tweet, adding, "Sending our deepest condolences to Willie Spence's family, friends, and loved ones during this time."

Idol host Ryan Seacrest also shared the tweet, adding his own message to Spence's loved ones. "Everybody on and off set loved him. [Spence], you'll be deeply missed," Seacrest wrote, adding a broken heart emoji. Idol judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie have not publicly commented on Spence's death yet.

Katharine McPhee-Foster, who worked with Spence on Idol, shared multiple tributes to the singer. "You're with Jesus now. God bless you. Thankful for the time we had," she wrote on his last Instagram post. "Only 23 years old. Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised," the Idol alum added in her Instagram Story. "God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you."

Douglas Now, a local news site covering Spence's Georgia hometown, was the first to report Spence died in a car accident in Tennessee Tuesday. A family source later told TMZ that Spence had a flat tire on Tuesday. He allegedly got it fixed before starting his trip from Tennesee to his home in Atlanta. Spence reportedly crashed into a semi-truck parked on the side of the road, the source told TMZ.

The crash happened at about 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, on I-24 east near Chattanooga, the Marion County Sheriff's Office told WSB-TV. According to the accident report, Spence was driving a Jeep Cherokee when he went off the road and crashed into the car parked on the shoulder. The driver of the other vehicle, Raymond Kresl, 68, was not injured. Hours before his death, Spence shared a video of himself singing a gospel song called "You Are My Hiding Place."

Spence stunned Idol viewers with his incredible voice during the show's 2021 season. He auditioned with Rihanna's "Diamonds," causing Richie to stand and applaud. Throughout the season, he performed John Legend's "All of Me," Celine Dion's "The Prayer," Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain," Elton John's "Circle of Life" and Coldplay's "Yellow." During the Season 19 finale, he performed Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind," Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and Cynthia Erivo's "Stand Up," notes Billboard. He finished the season in second place, behind country singer Chayce Beckham.

After the show, Spence released an EP titled The Voice. He was also featured on Briana Moir's 2022 single "The Living Years." On Sept. 25, he announced plans for his first-ever London performance. He was scheduled to sing at the Trinity Baptist Church Oasis House in Croydon on Nov. 12.