A Bahaman man who got to spend time with the late pop star Aaliyah just hours before she was killed in a plane crash, claims she never wanted to get on the stricken aircraft in the first place and had taken a sleeping pill just hours earlier.
Kingsley Russell, whose family ran a taxi and hospitality business in the Abaco Islands, was just 13-years old on August 25th 2001, but he was with the star as his stepmother drove her team to the airport for her return flight back to the U.S.
Russell got to work with Aaliyah’s entourage as her team’s baggage carrier thanks to his aunt, Annie Russell, who ran a small hospitality business on the island.
Aaliyah died August 25th 2001 while flying from the Bahamas to the US after shooting the music video for Rock The Boat
As a teen, Russell claims that when the star saw the plane to take her back to the U.S. mainland, she refused to get on board and went back to sleep in the cab his stepmother was driving, telling her team she had a headache.
Having passed out in the back of the cab, her team ultimately had to carry Aaliyah onto the plane while she was still fast asleep, despite her earlier protestations over traveling.
Hours later, she would be dead as the Brooklyn-born star and the eight members of her entourage were killed when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff about 200 feet from the end of the runway, as it struggled to gain altitude.
It was later revealed that the small twin-engine Cessna was significantly over its allotted weight by several hundred pounds and had one more passenger that it was certified for.
The singer was killed with eight members of her entourage when her chartered plane crashed as it took off from the Bahamas
Details of what happened on that fateful day are contained in a new book, Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah , by music journalist Kathy Iandoli.
The weight was also not properly distributed, making it harder to control once airborne.
It also emerged the pilot had faked his certifications to get his license, and he was also found to have cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the accident.
Russell, now 33, who has remained silent for two decades is speaking out about what he says happened in the hours before the crash on that fateful day in a new book, Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah, by music journalist Kathy Iandoli.
Iandoli had long been curious as to why Aaliyah, who was already a nervous flier, would have been insistent on getting onto a small plane, overloaded with luggage and equipment, despite there being a chartered jet due to pick her up the following day.
Aaliyah had just finished filming a music video for her song Rock The Boat and upon completion of the shoot, the team were keen to get back to Miami, about 50 miles away.
After dropping the team off at the airport, Aaliyah had concerns about the aircraft after hearing that it would be overweight.
Feeling a little under the weather and suffering from a headache, she decided to spend time in the back of the cab with the air conditioning leaving her crew to sort the problems out.
Aaliyah was said to be uncomfortable at boarding the small Cessna aircraft so went to sleep in the back of a taxi
Later, according to Russell, someone from her entourage returned to ask her what was wrong. Aaliyah is said to have repeated her concerns about getting on the plane at which point she was handed a sleeping pill. She fell into a deep sleep.
Russell headed back inside the airport while the star dozed in the back of the taxi. Upon entering the terminal, the book details how he could hear people bickering and arguing over the weight problems and the subsequent delays that were being caused.
‘[The airport staff] and Aaliyah had the common sense that the plane was overweight,’ Russell is quoted in the book.
Two hours later, the pilot once again advised there was too much cargo for the aircraft to fly. He was backed up by baggage handlers at the airport, but then the argument ended abruptly and the pilot agreed to continue with the trip.
All the while, Aaliyah was still fast asleep in the back of the taxi van completely unaware of what had been going on inside the airport terminal.
Moments after the takeoff the plane came down killing everyone onboard
Russell details how Aaliyah was brought out of the van and carried onto the plane despite her earlier reservations. She was still knocked out from whatever pill she had been given.
‘They took her out of the van; she didn’t even know she was getting boarded on a plane,’ Russell states in the book. ‘She went on the airplane asleep.’
Moments later, the aircraft was ready to depart and began hurtling down the runway. It was airborne for less than a minute before it came crashing down a couple of hundred feet from the end.
Although some on board survived the initial crash including Aaliyah’s bodyguard and hair stylist, within hours they were all dead.
Aaliyah’s body was found still strapped into her seat, about 20 feet away from the wreckage.
An autopsy detailed major head trauma and extensive burns making her survival was ‘unthinkable.’
The pilot of the plane has earlier warned the aircraft was overweight with cargo and people but ultimately he relented and decided to push ahead with the journey back to the U.S. mainland
‘I remember when Aaliyah passed away, I was really upset,’ Iandoli said to The Daily Beast. ‘The story kept saying that she was adamant about getting on the plane. I was almost upset with her. Why did you want to get on that plane so badly?
‘In learning that she did not want to get on the plane, for someone like myself and so many other people, I think that’s closure for us. It’s an unfortunate closure… but I needed to hear she didn’t want to get on that plane; I needed to know that. The person who I thought had the most common sense in the world had common sense to not get on the plane. The fact that she was so adamant, staying in the cab, refusing — these are things we never knew.
‘The only thing I’ve taken with me is that after 20 years, I can finally say that Aaliyah didn’t want to get on the plane,’ Iandoli says. ‘That makes me feel a little better, but not much. This didn’t have to happen. She should still be here, and I think that’s the saddest part about it. She deserved better.’
Aaliyah was just 22 when she died on August 25, 2001 during a private flight back to the US from the Bahamas, where she had shot the music video for her song Rock The Boat (above)