On December 31, 1985, a plane carrying singer Ricky Nelson and his twin sons took off from Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, the plane soon encountered trouble and crashed in a remote area of DeKalb, Texas. While Ricky Nelson tragically lost his life in the accident, his twin sons miraculously survived. It is believed that Ricky Nelson was able to save his sons’ lives by shielding them with his own body during the crash.
For many years, Ricky Nelson was the teen pop star idolized by his admirers, and he was one of the most televised performers of his time.
While many are aware of the enigmatic circumstances surrounding his passing, few are aware of how a split-second decision resulted in the survival of his two young boys.
Eric Hilliard Nelson, better known as Ricky Nelson, was born on May 8th, 1940 in Teaneck, New Jersey. Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard Nelson, his parents, were well-known for the hit sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”
The Nelson’s sitcom broke the record for the longest run of any sitcom when it ran for a total of sixteen years. Both Ricky and his older brother, David, joined the cast of the show while they were in the ages of eight and ten.
During all of this period, Ricky was a student at the Gardner Street Public School, and he later transferred to the Hollywood High School. He had a general distaste to learning, which generated conflict with his father, who was adamant that Ricky should continue his education at a university.
When he started getting closer to the age where he could enroll in college, he had already reached a point where he was earning more money than the majority of another adults. Because he was already making close to one hundred thousand dollars annually, he did not require a college education.
Ricky made his television debut in the episode of his family’s show titled “Ricky, the Drummer” when he was 17 years old. The song “I’m Walking” that he performed on that show was later produced and issued as the artist’s debut single. It immediately rose to the number 4 spot on Billboard’s list of best-selling albums.
As a result of his meteoric rise in fame, he was given the opportunity to frequently make his musical debut on the show that his parents hosted, even before the songs were made available to the general public as singles. The songs “Garden Party,” “It’s Late,” “Fools Rush In,” “For You,” “Poor Little Fool,” and “Travelin’ Man” were among the singer’s most successful offerings.
It was around 1961 when Rickey first started seeing Kristin Harmon. Kristin came from a similar background, since she was also brought up in the city of Hollywood. In addition to that, her family and the Nelson family were very good friends.
In April of 1963, the couple became married. They welcomed four children into the world: actor Sam Hilliard Nelson, identical twins Matthew Gray Nelson and Gunnar Eric Nelson, and the couple’s daughter, Tracy Kristine Nelson.
As Ricky maintained a steady output of tunes that charted in the Top 40 throughout the decade of the 1960s, his popularity continued to rise. Over the years, he went on a number of different tours thanks to the success of his music, which was primarily comprised of rock and roll’s expanding genre.
Unfortuitously, it was on one of these excursions that he met his untimely and, to this day, unexplained demise.
Despite the fact that Ricky was required to travel flights on a regular basis for tours and marketing, he was notorious for his dislike of flying. It has been stated that he even went to psychotherapy sessions in an effort to feel better when he was flying in order to continue his career and continue to interact with his followers.
Ricky was scheduled to do a New Year’s event in Dallas, and it was expected that Nelson, along with his kids Matthew and Gunnar, would go there together to see the show. However, Gunnar said:
“We were supposed to be on the plane on that trip. Our dad called us right before we were supposed to come down to Alabama and meet him and fly with him to the New Year’s show in Dallas.”
A couple of days before they were scheduled to leave together, Ricky got a bad sensation or had a premonition that led him to call his sons and explain that they would not be flying to Dallas together as planned.
It had been reported that the plane Ricky was supposed to travel had some engine difficulties a few days before it was supposed to depart as well.
Without his two sons, Ricky climbed on the DC-3 in Alabama, and the cabin started to fill with smoke as the aircraft approached its destination. Ricky and the other occupants of the jet perished tragically in the fire, but the pilot was able to make a safe landing in Texas.
After thirty years, it is still unknown what started the fire aboard the aircraft. Regarding the cause, rumors abounded, including some salacious ones about Ricky doing cocaine with his girlfriend Helen Blaine.
David, Ricky’s brother, passionately disputes this theory and asserts that his brother has never used cocaine. Ricky and Helen were sleeping in the cabin when the fire began, according to Greg McDonald, Ricky’s manager, who later confirmed this.
Ricky Nelson’s daughter Tracy Nelson later admitted to Larry King that she thinks the tragedy was caused by a mechanical malfunction.
Tracy noted that the plane’s fuel heater had a history of malfunctioning, which might have easily resulted in an unintentional fire. The aircraft was also known as the “Flying Bus” due to its slow speed.
Even though the origin of the fire is still unknown thirty years later, it is certain that Ricky Nelson’s premonitions helped to avert a much worse family tragedy.
In honor of their late father, Ricky, Matthew and Gunnar, Ricky’s twin boys, went on to co-found successful music careers. Matthew says:
“It’s an ongoing labor of love, an open letter to our dad, who was our best friend.”