KNOXVILLE, Tennessee ? J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson
suffered massive fractures and likely died immediately in the 1959
plane crash that also killed early rock ‘n’ rollers Buddy Holly and
Ritchie Valens, a forensic anthropologist said Tuesday after exhuming
The performer’s son, Jay Richardson, hired Dr. Bill
Bass, a well-known forensic anthropologist at the University of
Tennessee, to look at the remains in Beaumont, Texas.
been rumors a gun might have been fired on board the plane and that the
Big Bopper might have survived the crash and died trying to get help.
Bass took X-rays of the body and found nothing Tuesday to support those theories.
was no indication of foul play,” Bass said in a telephone interview
from Beaumont. “There are fractures from head to toe. Massive
fractures. … (He) died immediately. He didn’t crawl away. He didn’t
walk away from the plane.”
The rock ‘n’ roll stars’ plane crashed
after taking off from Mason City, Iowa, on February 3, 1959 ? a
tragedy memorialized as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s song
Jay Richardson, who performs in tribute shows as
“The Big Bopper Jr.,” didn’t know his father, who gained fame with the
hit “Chantilly Lace.” His mother was pregnant with him when his father
The Civil Aeronautics Board determined pilot error was the
cause of the crash. A gun that belonged to Holly was found at the crash
site, fueling rumors that the pilot was shot, but no one has ever
proved a gun was fired during the flight.
Richardson watched Bass
open the coffin on Tuesday and observed his examination. He said he was
pleased with the findings because it proved the investigators “knew
what they were talking about 48 years ago.”
“I was hoping to put the rumors to rest,” he said.
Bass and Richardson were surprised to find the body preserved enough to be recognizable.
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.”
The body was reburied in the cemetery but in
a different plot where there will be room for a graveside statue to be
Bass, 78, is a pioneer in his field and has
worked on such famous cases as confirming the identity of the Lindbergh
baby that was kidnapped in 1932 and murdered.
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