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'American Idol' runner-up Willie Spence dead at 23

"He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed," the show said.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — "American Idol" star Willie Spence has died in a car crash in Tennessee, officials said.

Spence, 23, finished as runner-up to Chayce Beckham in the show's 19th season.

The crash happened Tuesday afternoon in East Tennessee's Marion County, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said in a preliminary report Wednesday. Spence's 2019 Jeep Cherokee "left the roadway" of Interstate 24 and hit the back of a tractor trailer that had stopped on the shoulder.

THP said both Spence and the uninjured tractor trailer driver were wearing seatbelts. The crash investigation is still underway. 

"He was a true talent who lit up every room he entered and will be deeply missed," the singing competition show said on Twitter.

The Georgia-born singer wowed judges in his time on "American Idol," starting with a rendition of Rihanna's "Diamonds" that got a standing ovation from judge Lionel Richie. He went on to release an EP called "The Voice" and several singles. 

Just hours before the crash, Spence shared a video on Instagram of himself singing. According to his social media, he was set to head to the United Kingdom in November for a live performance in London.

"Only 23 years old," said fellow contestant and duet partner Katharine McPhee Foster on her Instagram story. "Life is so unfair and nothing is ever promised. God rest your soul Willie. It was a pleasure to sing with you and to know you."

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