'American Idol' singer Willie Spence dies at 23, hours after posting worship song on Instagram

American Idol runner up Willie Spence , 2021(Photo: YouTube/Idols Global)

(CP) Willie Spence, who gained national fame on "American Idol" last year, where he shared his faith and powerful voice and eventually became runner-up in the singing competition, tragically died in a car accident on Tuesday.

According to authorities, Spence's 2019 Jeep Cherokee "left the roadway" and crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer that was stopped on the shoulder on a Tennessee Highway.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Marion County medical examiner found that both Spence and the driver of the tractor-trailer were wearing seat belts when discovered on the side of Interstate 24, according to ABC News affiliate WJCL.

The Georgia native who was raised in the church had suffered "multisystem trauma due to motor vehicle accident," Marion County Medical Examiner Barbara O'Neal said.

Spence was pronounced dead at the scene.

Just hours before the crash, the 23-year-old, who finished as runner-up to Chayce Beckham in the 19th season of "American Idol," posted a video of himself singing a worship song.

The song, titled "You Are My Hiding Place" by Michael Ledner, declares: "You are my hiding place/ You always fill my heart/ With songs of deliverance/ Whenever I am afraid. I will trust in You/ I will trust in You/ Let the weak say I am strong/ In the strength of the Lord/ I will trust in You."

As a contestant on "American Idol," Spence often led the audience "to church" with his performances. He often left the judges in tears and deeply moved.

Upon hearing of Spence's death, Lionel Richie, one of the judges on the show, took to Instagram to pay tribute to the young singer.

"Your light will always shine in this world. We were so blessed to get a chance to see you shine. My thoughts and prayers are with Willie's family. Rest well my friend," Richie wrote along with a clip of Spence singing.

"American Idol" alum Katharine McPhee, who served as Spence's mentor for one of the episodes, wrote in an Instagram Story: "I received very tragic news tonight. Sweet [Willie Spence] passed away in a car accident. Only 23 years old. 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."

"American Idol" producer Randall Emmett also spoke out about Spence's death, writing, according to TMZ, "I was lucky to have him sing for me live at my home and other events. I will miss you my friend. I know you touched so many of us."

Mayor Tony Paulk of Spence's hometown of Douglas, described Spence as a "very genuine and humble big guy," in an interview with WJCL.

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