Forty eight years after Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the J. P. “Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash in Mason City, Iowa, a well worn urban myth is put to rest. The rumor was that the pilot of the plane was shot (for unknown reasons) and that the Big Bopper actually survived the crash, only to die trying to get help. An autopsy proved otherwise.
“There are fractures from head to toe. Massive fractures,” said Dr. Bill Bass, a well-known forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee “…(He) died immediately. He didn’t crawl away. He didn’t walk away from the plane.”
The genesis of the rumor can be traced to the fact that a gun belonging to Holly was found at the crash site. No signs of foul play were evident though and investigators at the time ruled it an accident.
The autopsy was requested by Jay Richardson, who performs in tribute shows as “The Big Bopper Jr.,” Richardson didn’t know his father as his mother was pregnant with him when his father died.
Creepily, Richardson was present when his father’s coffin was opened and observed the autopsy.
“Dad still amazes me 48 years after his death, that he was in remarkable shape,” Richardson said. “I surprised myself. I handled it better than I thought I would.”