The family of 23-year-old Willie Spence broke their silence Wednesday, speaking about the car accident that killed the “American Idol” star.
Spence’s family held their first press conference outside of his grandma’s house in Florida and told reporters how heartbroken they were at his passing, local ABC outlet WLOS reported.
“Willie was our gentle giant. He had such a soft demeanor but a very, very powerful voice. When he opened his mouth and lifted the Lord in song, many would just stop in their tracks to listen to him,” said Spence’s cousin Sabrina Cooper.
“Now Willie is in heaven, singing the lead in the heaven’s choir.”
According to a Tennessee State Trooper, the Jeep that Spence was driving went off the road and crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer which was stopped on the road’s shoulder.
Spence appeared on the 19th season of the singing show and made it all the way to the top three before losing to Chayce Beckham.
“He loved singing. He loved being around people. He loved his family. Mom and Dad were his best friends. He loved congregating with people and just enjoying time with others,” said former neighbor Keneitha Monroe.
“He really was a very sweet soul.”
Family members do not currently believe that alcohol played any role in Spence’s death, according to TMZ. Several members have said that they believe that Spence was overtired from a busy weekend and fell asleep at the wheel.
According to the family, Spence was leaving Tennessee State University’s homecoming weekend when the crash happened. The family also stated that Spence was not a drinker.
Family members also said that the crash happened in broad daylight so there was no way he could be leaving a party.
Police have yet to rule an official cause of death.
Spence’s family said that he was heading back to Atlanta to meet with an organization that helps abused and trafficked women.
His family says that they are planning to start a GoFundMe to cover funeral expenses.