On a typical cold and snowy night, 55 years ago, in a little ballroom in the middle of a cornfield in Clear Lake, Iowa, three emerging rock-and-roll stars performed for hundreds of local teenagers. What no one there knew was that this night would become famous, not for the performances, but for the tragedy that followed.
The Winter Dance Tour featured three of rock and roll’s most famous acts, all of whom were rapidly rising: Richie Valens, whose “Donna” and “La Bamba” had already made him a household name; J.P. Richardson, better known to his fans as the Big Bopper; and Buddy Holly, whose brief career would influence rock and roll to this very day.
The tour was to last 24 nights and hit an unlikely 24 cities. Until to the concert at Clear Lake, all of the acts travelled by bus. Buddy Holly, however, had chartered a plane, and invited his tour mates to join him. A young Waylon Jennings had a seat on the plane, but gave it up to the Big Bopper, who was ill. Richie Valens wanted a seat, but Tommy Allsup, Holly’s guitarist, already had it; they flipped a coin, and Valens won.
The pilot was a 21-year-old named Roger Peterson. He had already been awake for 17 hours when he agreed to fly Holly, Valens, and the Bopper to the next stop on the tour. He was cleared for take-off from the tower, but was not informed of an incoming blizzard. No one is sure exactly how it happened, but the plane was only in the air a few minutes, before it crashed into the ground. All four aboard were killed. It was February 3, 1959.
The tour went on, but the music world was changed forever. Tributes to the fallen musicians came, the most famous being “American Pie” by Don McLean. Additionally, the now-common staple of having two guitarists, one bassist, and one drummer was popularized by Buddy Holly.
Airplanes and Their Inherent Dangers
Air travel is now safer than it has ever been. Advances in technology, tighter federal regulation, and superior weather tracking methods have all helped put people at ease when flying. Crashes are inevitable though, and machines fail, as they did when a small plane crashed in the Pacific after taking off from Hawaii late last year. Manufacturers fail to include vital safety measures in their planes, as is alleged by a lawsuit recently filed against Boeing in connection to an Asiana Airlines crash. Pilots make errors, as occurred in Chicago recently, when a misread instrument prompted a pilot to initiate an emergency evacuation into single-digit weather. In any of these situations, injuries may be possible. If injuries occur, the pilot, manufacturer, or airline may be liable for them.
Contact a Chicago Personal Injury Attorney
Chicago’s two international airports, as well as Illinois’ numerous local airports, invite many flights. All of this air traffic equates to an increased risk of accidents. If you are injured in an airplane accident, an experienced attorney can help establish fault and get you the settlement or verdict your injury demands.