R&B; Singer Aaliyah Dies in Bahamas Plane Crash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Popular R&B; singer Aaliyah, a 22-year-old rising actress slated to co-star in the sequel to the blockbuster "The Matrix," was killed in the Bahamas on Saturday along with seven others as her charter plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Marsh Harbour.

Six men and another woman, possibly from a film crew for a video shoot, also died, authorities said. One critically injured man was flown to Florida for treatment. Their names were not released.

The plane was a Cessna 402 owned by Skystream, a company based in Pembroke Pines, Fla., said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Atlanta.

After the plane took off, it traveled about 200 feet, then crashed into marshy land, said officer Leeland Russell of the Abaco police department, who responded to the scene. It crashed near the end of the airport's runway at about 6:50 p.m., Bergen said.

"There was a fire. Some of the victims were badly burned," he said. "We don't know what caused the accident."

Russell said the weather Saturday was good, with no rain.

Late Saturday, FAA and National Transportation Safety Board officials said they were just beginning to get information about the crash, and that it would be up to Bahamian authorities to determine if the federal aviation agencies would get involved.

Aaliyah Haughton was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Jan. 16, 1979. At the age of 5, she moved to Detroit. She began performing professionally at 9, auditioning regularly for record companies and television pilots, and singing on Star Search.

By the time she was 11, Aaliyah was singing with Gladys Knight in Las Vegas. Before finishing high school she released her solo debut, 1994's "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number," which went platinum (sales of 1 million) thanks to hits like "Back and Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)."

After marrying her producer, the singer R. Kelly, Aaliyah returned in 1996 with her album "One in a Million."

Aaliyah's song "Try Again" earned her a Grammy nomination this year for best female R&B; vocalist. She made her feature acting debut in the film "Romeo Must Die." She was to co-star with actor Keanu Reeves in the sequel to "The Matrix," called "The Matrix Reloaded."

Her new album, "Aaliyah" entered the sales chart at No. 2 in July, but has dropped quickly, with sales to date of less than a half million.

The Cessna 402 was leaving the Marsh Harbour airport on a trip to Opa-Locka, Fla., said police spokesman Marvin Dames.

"We find it devastating and most unfortunate that . . . the project has climaxed on such a tragic note," said Minister of Tourism Tommy Turnquest, who happened to be visiting Abaco Island, where the plane went down.

Islander Derek Russell, who worked for the group during the video shoot, said he got the artist's autograph before the accident.

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Staff writer Jose Cardenas contributed to this report.

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