The singer’s career was nearly derailed by a terrible car crash that took place on June 14, 1961, when she and her brother Sam were involved in a head-on collision in Nashville that threw Cline into the windshield. Cline spent a month in the hospital after suffering injuries including a broken wrist, dislocated hip and a jagged cut across her forehead that required stitches. Determined to continue her career, Cline was back onstage at the Grand Ole Opry shortly afterward, performing on crutches, according to the PBS program American Masters.
Cline was still on crutches when she returned to the studio to record “Crazy,” written by a young Nashville songwriter named Willie Nelson. The song reached No. 2, and she subsequently scored another No. 1 hit in “She’s Got You.” Cline landed two more hits in 1962 with “When I Get Thru With You” and “So Wrong,” which turned out to be some of the final hits of her lifetime.
Cline was killed instantly on March 5, 1963, when a small private plane she was traveling on while returning to Nashville crashed in a heavy downpour and limited visibility in Camden, Tenn., 90 miles outside of Music City. Cline had been in Kansas City to perform at a benefit for the family of DJ Jack “Cactus” Call, who had died in a car crash that January.
Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and the pilot, Randy Hughes, also died instantly. Roger Miller and a friend searched for the wreckage the next morning, and ended up being among the first to find the plane and its passengers.