A Bahaman who got to spend some time with pop star Aaliyah before she was killed in a plane crash in 2001, claims she never wanted to get on the aircraft in the first place and had taken a sleeping pill hours before the flight.
Kingsley Russell, whose family ran a taxi and hospitality business in the Abaco Islands, was thirteen years old on August 25th, 2001, and was with the star as his stepmom drove her team to the airport for her return flight back to America.
According to Russell, when the star saw the plane she was supposed to be boarding, she refused to get onto it, returning to the cab to sleep, telling her team she had a headache.
Her team had to carry her onto the plane while she was still asleep, despite her saying she didn't want to travel. But, hours later, she and the 8 members of her team were killed when the plane crashed after takeoff about 200 feet from the end of the runway, struggling to gain altitude.
The small-twin-engine Cessna was over its allotted weight by several hundred pounds and had 1 more passenger than it was actually allowed, with the pilot faking his certifications to get his license, holding cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the accident.
Russell, now a thirty-three-year-old man, has remained silent for almost two decades, is now speaking out about what happened before the crash in a new book: Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah, by music journalist Kathy Landoli.
Landoli has been curious for a long time as to why Aaliyah, a known nervous flier, would have been ok with getting onto such a plane, but it turns out, she really wasn't.
She had concerns about the aircraft she was supposed to board once she heard it was overweight, so went back to the cab so that her crew could sort the problems out.
Now, according to Russell, someone from her team had returned to enquire what was wrong with the star. As her response, she repeated concerns about the plane, only to be handed a sleeping pill.
"The airport staff and Aaliyah had the common sense that the plane was overweight," Russell said.
The pilot, who had drugs in his system at that time, even advised the team that there was too much cargo, but he agreed to fly with them anyway.
"They took her out of the van; she didn't even know she was getting boarded on a plane," Russell states. "She went on the plane asleep."
The plane, subsequently, was airborne for no less than a minute before it crashed down, killing everyone on board.
Aaliyah's bodyguard and stylist had initially survived, but it took a couple of hours until they too, passed away.
Meanwhile, Aaliyah's body was found still strapped into her seat, 200 feet away from the wreckage, with an autopsy detailing major head trauma and extensive burns making her survival impossible.
"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 the 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," Landoli said to The Daily Beast.
"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. '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."
We're sorry this happened to you Aaliyah!