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Natchitoches, LA Jim Croce and others Die in Plane Crash, Sept 1973

Jim Croce, photo from Jim Croce Album Cover from Jim Croce Plane Crash, submitted by Stu Beitler

Singer Dies In Plane Crash

NATCHITOCHES, La., (UPI) - Investigators Friday said they found marijuana in the wreckage of the plane crash that killed singer JIM CROCE and five other persons, but a sheriff admitted the drug probably was not involved in the accident.
"A lid (ounce) is all. There was some on two different ones," said Sheriff SAM JAMES. "I don't think that had anything to do with the plane crash. He (the pilot) just didn't get enough altitude."
The sheriff said the pilot's body was not carrying any drugs, but JAMES ordered an autopsy.
The music industry expressed shock and sorrow at CROCE'S loss just as it had over the premature deaths of Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and Jim Morrison.
"For the music and the people who had seen JIMMY he was only beginning to scratch the surface of what I think would have been a truly big career," said Tommy West, a CROCE producer in New York.
"I wouldn't call him a super star because that has overtones of rock things and it went more beyond that. I think JIMMY could have been a Will Rogers or a white Bill Cosby."
"He didn't like the music business, he liked music."
CROCE, 30, and his group, had performed a concert Thursday night at Northwestern Louisiana State College, and were leaving for a Friday appearance at Austin College in Sherman, Tex.
CROCE'S biggest hits had been "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "Operator" and "Don't Mess Around With Jim" which earned him a gold album.
"They were leaving the airport and got possibly 250 yards south of the runway, 30 feet in the air, and hit this tree," Sheriff James said. "For some reason they didn't gain altitude fast enough."
Investigators said the tree, a large pecan, was the only tree for hundreds of yards.
"It flipped, landed upright and was turned completely around," said James of the twin-engined craft.
The pilot, ROBERT N. ELLIOTT, 57, of Dallas, was thrown from the wreckage. The other victims were found in the plane.
Also killed were GEORGE STEVENS, 36, Inglewood, Calif., a comedian; KENNETH D. CORTOSE, 28, Chicago, CROCE'S manager and booking agent; MAURICE T. MUEHLEISEN, 24, Trenton, N. J., a musician; and DENNIS RAST, 30, Chicago.

The Morning Herald Hagerstown Maryland 1973-09-22


Jim Croce

I remember back in 73 when Jim's plane went down. I was 18, and music lovers were distraught. But the leading sentence out of the talking head's collective mouthes were "Jim Croce has died in a plane crash, and marijuana was found on board." Even the Louisiana sheriff
investigating the crash said the weed had no bearing on the wreck (probably been smokin' since he was a kid.) The point is, the marijuana witch hunt has not improved much with the uneducated and the sheltereed on the subject. It's probably one of the most useful plants to mankind. But in our infinite Puritan wisdom, we ignore one of God's greatest gifts to his children. Makes me a bit ashamed to be an American, but not the least surprised. What a hypocritical animal we human beings are. Bound to self-destruct.

your comments

While I am a marijuana advocate, I do not believe it is constructive to use Jim Croce's death as a referendum on marijuana use. Remember the times, it was a different world back then.

Jim Croce

I was lucky enought to be at the concert that night at Prather Coliseum. I had driven over from Northeast Louisiana University (now known as University of Louisiana - Monroe). This was a make up concert for one that had to be cancelled earier because of illness. I never saw it confirmed anywhere but I had heard that the pilot had to run from their motel to the airport so they could leave "immediately" for some undisclosed reason. It was suspected that he had a heart attack during takeoff brought on by the run.

We lost a great musician that night. I don't say performer because that was not Jim. He loved music and that was his passion.

Well said

Very well said Randy, and very, very much appreciated.
Harry Chapin (killed in an auto accident on Long Island) was a friend of mine. He too was so much more than an "act" .. he was one of the most talented, compassionate, and "Real" people I have ever known.


Stu I like harry chapin tell me was Harry a fan of Jim Croce?

The Buzz on Jim

I grew up near Natchitoches, had just started my senior year in high school when Jim Croce was killed in the plane crash. The talk around Natchitoches at the time was that the Croce crew was trying to get away from the police when the plane took off, that police were involved because of drugs.

Jim Croce's last concert


I'm researching a story about Jim Croce's final concert. Would you be available to interview?

Croce's final concert

When I lived in Shreveport, I heard the same rumor. Are you available to interview for a story about Croce's final concert that I'm researching?

Jim Croce's mysterious death/ accident?

The suspicious circumstances leading to the plane crash are questionable at best. A pilot with a heart condition running three miles to the airport, and then attempted a downwind takeoff indicates unusual behavior. Many NSU summer students in 1973 suspected local law enforcement were involved.

It was rumored that Jim Croce’s pilot Elliot thought their motel was under surveillance by Natchitoches police. The theory was that an experienced 57 year old pilot knew that interstate transportation of drugs carries severe penalty and tried to takeoff downwind to elude police. Witnesses reportedly observed fire department equipment and police officials were onsite prior to the crash.

I was a student, attended the concert and heard about the incident that night. Long time ago and I doubt I could contact others that knew more. I was a member of a forum that was trying to mitigate tensions between NSU students and local officials about drug use around campus. It wasn't considered an accident at the time by students. We expected the cover up, what else could they do?

I'm open to an interview...

Croce's accidental death?

The suspicious circumstances leading to the plane crash are questionable at best. A pilot with a heart condition running three miles to the airport, and then attempting a downwind takeoff Is very unusual.

It was rumored that Jim Croce’s pilot, Elliot thought their motel was under surveillance. The theory was that: as an experienced 57 year old pilot; he knew that interstate transportation of drugs carries severe penalty and attempted to made a downwind takeoff to elude police.


article | by Dr. Radut