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How Did Jim Croce Die? The Tragic Details of the Plane Crash

how did jim croce die? jim croce outside putting his fit on something
Image is in the Public Domain.

Singer-songwriter Jim Croce was one of the biggest folk and rock artists of the 1970s. With decades of opportunities ahead of him, it was clear the world was excited to find out just where the “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” singer was going to go. Tragically, human error ended it all, making the Jim Croce death story one of the saddest ever. 

How did Jim Croce die? Read about all the tragic, heart-wrenching details below.

How Did Jim Croce Die?

Jim Croce’s cause of death is heart-wrenching as he and five others were killed in an airplane crash. In that, he became one of many that the world lost in this tragic way with such legends as Buddy HollyPatsy Cline, and Jim Reeves. Sadly, Croce’s cause of death wasn’t the last story like that, as John Denver, Lynard Skynyrd, and Troy Gentry all also died in a plane crash in the following years. 

As the story goes, Croce was in the middle of his Life and Times 45-date tour. Things were at an all-time high as his newest single, “I Got a Name,” was just about to be released, and the tour was going strong, having just finished a show at Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum and preparing to head for another at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. 

Croce and five others were on a chartered Beechcraft E18S when it crashed during takeoff from Natchitoches Regional Airport in Louisiana. The plane had crashed into a tree. 

Along with Croce, Robert N. Elliott, the pilot; Maury Muehleisen, Croce’s bandmate; George Stevens, a comedian; Kenneth D Cortese, Croce’s manager and booking agent; and Dennis Rast, Croce’s road manager, were also killed. 

Following an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board named the cause of the crash to be due to Elliott’s failure to see the obstruction (the tree) because of physical impairment as well as reduced vision from the fog.

Elliott, who was 57 years old at the time, reportedly suffered from a severe case of coronary artery disease and, just before the flight, had run three miles from a motel to the airport. The final investigation did end in the crash determined to be caused by pilot error, noting his “downwind takeoff into a black hole of severe darkness limiting his use of visual references.”

It just goes to show that even the most experienced pilots are not error-proof. Prior to the crash, Elliott had an ATP certificate, had logged 14,290 hours of flight time, and even 2,190 hours in the same type of airplane that the crash happened in.

Related: 12 Musicians Who Died in Plane Crashes

an up close photo of jim croce
Image is in the Public Domain.

When Did Jim Croce Die?

Jim Croce passed away on September 20, 1973. 

He was survived by his wife and son. 

How Old Was Jim Croce When He Died?

Sadly, at the time of Jim Croce’s death, he was only 30 years old. 

Where is Jim Croce Buried?

Following Jim Croce’s death, he was buried in Frazer, Pennsylvania, at Haym Salomon Memorial Park. The burial happened after Jim Croce’s funeral, of which little is known. That is, until September 19, 2017, when Ingrid Croce, on her husband’s official Facebook page, gave fans insight into the sad day of Jim Croce’s funeral. 

“Today is September 20… I buried Jim on the following Monday at a rural cemetery near Valley Forge,” the Facebook post reads. It rained hard during the funeral, as Jay Lasker, the President of ABC Records, got up to read his eulogy … and perhaps he said it best … ‘Some people reach out and feel nothing. Jim Croce reached out and in some way touched everyone.” 

That post was met with overwhelming responses from fans. Comments included, “His song lives on in the hearts of many. He was truly one of the great storytellers of our times” and “Jim touched me in a big way back then and to this day. We must keep his memory alive; that’s the least we can do for him and you, Ingrid.” 

How Much Was Jim Croce Worth When He Died?

At the time of Jim Croce’s death, he had accrued an estimated net worth of $3 million, a considerable feat considering how short he had been in the music industry and how even shorter his success had been. 

Who Inherited Jim Croce’s Money?

After his death, it was revealed that Jim Croce’s estate, according to Jim Croce’s will, named his wife, Ingrid Croce, was named the heir to her husband’s estate. It is assumed that his son, A.J. Croce, whom he was also survived by, benefitted from Jim Croce’s estate later in life as well, although he wasn’t explicitly named in Jim Croce’s will. 

What Were Jim Croce’s Last Words?

While it is unknown precisely what Jim Croce’s last vocal words were after his death, his final letter to his wife Ingrid, which he penned just a week before his death, was revealed later. In the letter, Croce wrote of his want to get closer to her and their son and even give up the music business to accomplish that. “Remember, it’s the first 60 years that count, and I’ve got 30 to go. I love you.” 

Did Jim Croce Have a Wife?

Yes. Jim Croce married his wife, Ingrid, in 1966, three years after meeting at the Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center. 

What happened to Jim Croce’s wife, Ingrid, after he passed away? Following the plane crash, Ingrid and the couple’s young son moved to Quepas, Costa Rica, before coming to San Diego, California. There, she founded a Head Start program for Costa Rica, which provides health, nutrition, comprehensive early childhood education, and more. She also wrote a children’s book, Mirandome, and opened Point Loma, a children’s school.

She also went on to lead the Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego revamps movement in the early 1970s and later broke out into her own career of singing and songwriting and opening the publishing company Time in a Bottle. Sadly, she lost her voice in 1984, having developed tumors on her vocal cords. When her voice could not be restored after two surgeries, her singing career was forced to end. 

Jim croce singing and playing guitar
Image is in the public domain.

Did Jim Croce Have a Child?

Yes. Jim Croce’s son, A.J. Croce, was born on September 28, 1971, and was just a week shy of turning 2 years old at the time of his father’s passing. 

That wasn’t the only tragic event of his childhood. How did Jim Croce’s son lose his sight? Though only temporarily, when he was 4 years old, A.J. Croce was rendered blind for a short period because of a brain tumor. The brain tumor, sadly, was caused by severe physical abuse brought on him by his mother’s boyfriend. This left him hospitalized for six months, and he remained completely blind in both eyes for six years. 

Related: 30 Best 70s Songs

Did Jim Croce Have a Photographic Memory?

Yes. According to the “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” singer’s listing in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, “During the folk movement of the early ‘60s, Jim became captivated with sea chanteys, English and Irish ballads and the music of Woody Guthrie and Jimmie Rodgers. By the time he graduated from Villanova University in 1965 with a degree in psychology, his photographic memory had helped him have as many as 2,500 songs at his fingertips.” 

What Nationality was Jim Croce?

While Jim Croce was American, his parents, James Albert Croce and Flora Mary (Babusci) Croce, immigrated from Italy, specifically Trasacco and Balsorano in Abruzzo and Palermo in Sicily. 

Why is Jim Croce So Popular?

If there is anything that contributed to Jim Croce’s popularity more than anything else, it was the way that he showed such honesty in his songs. As the Philadelphia Music Alliance puts it, “Whether he used dry wit, gentle emotions, or sorrow, Croce sang with a rare form of honesty and power. Few artists have ever been able to pull off such down-to-earth storytelling as convincingly as Croce.”

Jim Croce’s Legacy

Less than three months after he was deceased, Croce’s record label posthumously released his album I Got a Name on December 1, 1973. From that release, fans were gifted with three more hits, including the title song, featured in the film The Last American Hero, “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues,” and “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song.” 

Additionally, the Jim Croce death story gave new life to his previously recorded song “Time in a Bottle” thanks to its poignant references to mortality and the wish that one had more time. Because of the high demand for it to be played, the song would officially become Croce’s final number-one hit. The album You Don’t Mess Around with Jim subsequently was number one for five weeks. 

Fans still weren’t done getting new ways to enjoy Croce’s music after he was deceased. His greatest hits album, Photographs & Memories, came out in 1974. They were then followed by Home Recordings: AmericanaJim Croce: Classic HitsDown the Highway, and The Faces I’ve Been, as well as DVDs and CDs of his television performances, entitled Have You Heard: Jim Croce Live.

Releasing his music is not the only way the legacy continued after Jim Croce’s death. In 1990, he was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and other artists have also honored him. Most notably, Queen included a song referencing his hit, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” entitled “Bring Back That Leroy Brown” on their 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack.

Other media honoring him include the memoir I Got a Name: The Jim Croce Story, published by his wife, Ingrid Croce, in 2012. Additionally, his wife opened Croce’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar in downtown San Diego in 1985 in honor of an idea they had humorously discussed more than 10 years earlier. Sadly, it closed on December 31, 2013.

Most recently, his home state installed a Pennsylvania Historical Marker outside his Lyndell farmhouse in 2022.


Jim Croce may have been young when he passed away, but he left his mark on the music industry. Like most tragedies, Jim Croce’s death was a shock, but many didn’t hesitate to keep his legacy alive. It’s because of that that he will never ever be forgotten, whether it is 50 years later or 100 years later. 

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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