Examination finds no evidence of foul play in Big Bopper's death

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) ? 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 body. 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. There have 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.
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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 body.

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.

There have

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.

"There

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

"American Pie."

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

died.

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.

"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."

The body was reburied in the cemetery but in

a different plot where there will be room for a graveside statue to be

installed later.

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.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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