It’s been a decade since the tragic death of R&B star and budding actress Aaliyah Dana Haughton. Just 22 years old at the time of her death, she was in the Bahamas heading back to the States after wrapping up her 2001 music video, “Rock The Boat.”
The twin-engine plane crashed shortly after takeoff. Aboard were Aaliyah and eight others — including her hair stylist, Eric Forman (29), hair/makeup artists Anthony Dodd (34) and Christopher Maldonado (32), security guard Scott Gallin (41), video producer Douglas Kratz (28), Blackground Records employees Keith Wallace (49) and executive Gina Smith (30), and the pilot, Luis Morales III. In an instant their lives and Aaliyah’s promising career were gone.
The singer had released her first album at 14 produced by Chicago R&B kingpin R. Kelly, called Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, which sold more than 1 million copies. Reports surfaced that she had married Kelly when she was only 15 and he was 27; Aaliyah denied it, although a marriage certificate was found in a Chicago county clerk’s office, Rolling Stone magazine reported.
A Cessna 402B carrying the singer and her crew was returning to Florida when it crashed. The singer had traveled to Marsh Harbour to shoot a video for the song Rock the Boat off her third album, Aaliyah. Her parents sued the plane’s operator, Blackhawk International Airways Corp., owners Skystream Inc. and Gilbert Chacon and flight broker Atlantic Flight Group. In 2003, they reached a secret settlement in Miami federal court.
It turned out that at the time of the crash, Blackhawk did not have permission from the Bahamas for commercial flights. Though Bahamian investigators never officially determined what caused the crash, police initially speculated that the plane foundered because it was 700 pounds over the aircraft’s specified 6,300-pound limit.
In the days after the crash, it was revealed that Blackhawk has received several citations for safety violations, including a warning for not adequately testing employees for drugs. And pilot, Luis Morales, of Fort Lauderdale, also had a troubling past. Less than two weeks before the crash, he pleaded no contest to charges of possession of crack cocaine and attempting to sell stolen airplane parts and was on probation. He began working at Blackhawk two days before the accident, and the company hadn’t licensed him to operate the plane used for Aaliyah’s fatal flight.
In 1996, she relased One in a Million, which sold 2 million copies and launched to stardom its producer-songwriter team of Timbaland and Missy Elliott. Aaliyah began modeling for Tommy Hilfiger. She landed a role in “Romeo Must Die” (2000). She had just completed her work on the film, “Queen of The Damned” and was already being sought after for other movie roles. Not to mention, she had a solid and loyal fan base. However, the rest of her journey to superstardom just wasn’t meant to be.