Aaliyah's enduring influence is said to have inspired superstars like Rihanna and Lana Del Rey - despite her shocking and untimely death at the age of 22.

Now, 20 years after the horrific accident that claimed her life, a new book claims that the R&B singer was "drugged" and transferred on to an aeroplane that crashed moments after take-off.

Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah - written by music journalist Kathy Iandoli - claims that the icon was given a sleeping pill when she voiced her concerns about boarding the flight.

The author interviews a man whose family ran a taxi and hospital business in the Bahamas, who said the star went to sleep in the car his stepmother was driving, telling her team she had a headache.

The shocking new claims have shone a spotlight once more on a horrific disaster that rocked the music world, leading to a much-publicised investigation which found the plane had been overloaded and that the pilot had cocaine and alcohol in his system.

Here is how the chilling crash unfolded, the shocking details that emerged and how devastated fans united in grief.

'It was a beautiful day'

In 2001, Aaliyah was once of the most famous women in the world, an R&B pioneer who shot to the top of the charts with hits like Back & Forth and Try Again.

On the evening of August 25, she was heading back to Miami from the Bahamas, where she had spent four days filming the video for her latest track, Rock The Boat.

The star had been in the Bahamas, filming the music video for her hit Rock The Boat (


Virgin Records)

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"Those four days were very beautiful for everyone. We all worked together as a family," video director Hype Williams told MTV.

"The last day, Saturday, was one of the best I've had in this business. Everyone felt part of something special, part of her song."

Aaliyah boarded a 10-seat twin-engine Cessna 402B private jet bound for Opa-Locka, Florida along with seven members of her crew.

The star was accompanied by video director Douglas Kratz, 28, record label executive Gina Smith, 30, bodyguard Scott Gallin, 41, hairstylists Anthony Dodd, 34, and Eric Forman, 29, make-up artist Christopher Maldonado, 32, and her friend Keeth Wallace, 49.

Driving her to the jet was the stepmother of Kingsley Russell, who was only 13 when he briefly met Aaliyah.

He was with her when his stepmother drove her team to the airport and worked as the baggage carrier.

Speaking for the first time since the tragedy, Kingsley told Iandoli: "They took her out of the van, she didn’t even know she was getting boarded on a plane.

"She went on the aeroplane asleep."

According to the book, Kingsley was able to hear people arguing about the weight problems of the aeroplane.

"[The airport staff] and Aaliyah had the common sense that the plane was overweight," he said in the book.

Anxious to get back to Miami on time, the group nonetheless boarded the plane, which had arrived late on Abaco Island.

The short flight across the water was only meant to take an hour.

Jet plunges to ground minute after take-off

As the plane left the runway, however, disaster struck within moments.

Less than a minute after take-off, the jet was reportedly not even 100 feet in the air when it suddenly plummeted towards the ground below.

A fan of the singer looks on at a record store mural of the late singer, which has become a shrine to her following her death (



Aaliyah and seven of the eight others on board -including the pilot - were killed instantly.

The star's security guard, who according to first responders spent his last moments asking about her condition, later died in hospital.

Claude Sawyer, 25, was a charter pilot who was working on machinery close to the site of the accident and he described the devastation.

In Christopher John Farley's book Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, Sawyer is quoted as saying: "I saw the plane go up and then it banked to the left and nosed in.

"I've seen crashes before, but this was probably one of the worst ones. It was pretty devastating.

"The aircraft was broken into pieces and some of the seats were ejected from the aircraft."

Grieving fans take to the streets

In the days that followed, the music industry united in grief.

Devastated fans lined the streets of Manhattan six days after the crash, ending at St Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church where a private service was held.

A horse-drawn carriage carries Aaliyah''s coffin towards St Ignatius Loyola Church in New York on August 31, 2001 (


Getty Images)

Twenty two birds were released after the ceremony to commemorate the tragically few years of the singer's life.

Rock The Boat was released as a single posthumously and nominated for an award at the Grammys, while the album Aaliyah, which had been released the month before, shot to number one in the charts.

Back in the Bahamas, an inquest into the death took place and an investigation into the crash was also launched.

The inquest was carried out by Dr Giovander Raju and he concluded that the singer died from severe burns, a blow to the head and severe shock.

Dr Raju also confirmed the star had a weak heart and would never have survived the shock even if she had been spared in the crash,

He ruled: "[She] went into such a state of shock, even if she had survived the crash, recovery would have been near impossible."

An investigation by America's National Transportation Safety Board concluded the plane had been overloaded at the time of take off.

The pilot, Luis Morales III, was also called into question as a report by the Federal Aviation Administration alleged he was not approved to fly the aircraft, which was operated by Blackhawk Airways International.

He'd also previously been charged with a drug offence in the US, and an autopsy found he had cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Iandoli said her new book offers "unfortunate closure" for fans, who questioned why staff boarded the plane despite concerns over its safety.

She said: "I remember when Aaliyah passed away, I was really upset.

"The story kept saying that she was adamant about getting on the plane. I was almost upset with her. Why did you want to get on that plane so badly?"

She added: "In learning that she did not want to get on the plane, for someone like myself and so many other people, I think that’s closure for us.

"It’s an unfortunate closure… but I needed to hear she didn’t want to get on that plane; I needed to know that."

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