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Rick Nelson: The NTSB Report

Rick Nelson

Rick Nelson

Eric Hilliard ("Ricky") Nelson was born on 8 May 1940 to an entertainment dynasty - his parents were television's beloved Ozzie and Harriet and his children enjoyed their own success. Daughter Tracy is an actress (she starred in The Father Dowling Mysteries with Tom Bosley) and twins Matthew and Gunnar formed the '90s rock group, Nelson ("After the Rain," ("I Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection" ). When "Love and Affection" reached #1, the Nelsons made the Guinness Book of World Records as the only family to have #1 records in three successive generations. (Ozzie Nelson had a #1 with "And Then Some" in 1934 and Ricky Nelson had two #1 hits with "Poor Little Fool" in 1960 and "Travelin' Man" in 1962). Rick Nelson charted more than 50 Hot 100 hits, second only to Elvis Presley as the most popular rock and roll artist of the late 1950s.

Rick Nelson had once met Buddy Holly. Supposedly Nelson's last recording was Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways." On 30 December 1985, Nelson finished performing in Guntersville, Alabama. He had played Holly’s “Rave On” as his encore, and his last words to the audience were, "Rave on for me!" The next morning, he boarded his reconditioned DC-3, which was previously owned by Jerry Lee Lewis, and made an emergency landing after the pilot detected smoke in the cockpit. Supposedly all survived the landing, but the craft then burst into flames, killing Nelson, his fiancee, and his band (the pilot and co-pilot survived). Ricky Nelson was 45. (Visit this link for more on Nelson's and other artists' connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly.)

Crash site

Wreckage of Rick Nelson's plane. Thanks to

NTSB Identification: DCA86AA012.

The docket is stored on NTSB microfiche number 29185.

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation

Accident occurred Tuesday, December 31, 1985 in DEKALB, TX

Aircraft: DOUGLAS DC-3, registration: N711Y

Injuries: 7 Fatal, 2 Serious.

At 1708:48, while cruising at 6000', a pilot of N711Y advised ATC, "I think I'd like to turn around, head for Texarkana here, I've got a little problem." He was provided a vector & advised of closest airports. Shortly after, he stated he would be unable to reach the airports. At 1711:49, he said there was smoke in the cockpit. While landing in a field at 1714, the aircraft hit wires & a pole then continued into trees where it was extensively damaged by impact & fire. The crew egressed thru the cockpit windows. The passengers did not escape. During flight, the crew was unable to start the cabin heater, despite repeated attempts by the captain. Smoke then entered the cabin. Fresh air vents & cockpit windows were opened, but smoke became dense. The crew had difficulty seeing. The oxygen system & hand held fire extinguishers were not used. Fasteners for the heater door were found unfastened. Examination indicated the fire originated in the aftcabin area, right hand side, at or near the floor line. The ignition and fuel sources were not determined.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:



Contributing Factors









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