Ritchie Valens died of massive brain trauma and multiple fractures, after being thrown from a plane as it crashed on February 3, 1959. Internal injuries are not known because no autopsy was performed. The American singer and songwriter was 17.
Valens was flying from Iowa to North Dakota in a three-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza, which took off in a snowstorm and crashed minutes later. Three other people also died: musician Buddy Holly, singer and disc jockey J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson.
The crash became known as The Day the Music Died, and was immortalized by singer Don McLean in his 1971 song “American Pie.” Valens, whose biggest hit was “La Bamba,” is considered a pioneer of the Chicano rock movement. In 2001, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.