Aaliyah Funeral Set; Pilot Probed

Private and public memorials to be held Friday; pilot had drug record, wasn't licensed to fly ill-fated plane

By Marcus Errico Aug 29, 2001 9:30 PMTags
Aaliyah will be laid to rest in New York Friday in a private funeral service.

There will also be a public memorial for fans, according to her label, the Virgin-distributed Blackground Entertainment, but the details are still being worked out and a full announcement is expected Thursday.

The body of the 22-year-old R&B songstress and budding actress, killed with eight others in a plane crash in the Bahamas Saturday, was flown to Newark International Airport on Tuesday and taken to the Frank E. Campbell Funeral home in New York, where friends and family came and paid their respects.

No further details--such as where the funeral will take place and where Aaliyah's remains will be interred--were available.

The bodies of the other eight victims are expected to be returned to their respective hometowns by the end of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, investigators are still trying to piece together what went wrong Saturday night when the chartered Cessna twin-engine carrying the singer and her entourage crashed just seconds after lifting off.

There have been reports the plane was overloaded with gear and luggage and eyewitness accounts suggest the plane lost its left engine.

More troubling, however, is a Miami Herald report saying the pilot, 30-year-old Luis Antonio Morales Blanes, was not authorized to fly the plane, which was owned by Blackhawk International Airways. Morales was killed in the crash.

Blackhawk had been cited by the Federal Aviation Administration three times in four years for various safety violations, according to the Associated Press. Among the transgressions: failure to follow drug-testing guidelines and performing improper aircraft maintenance.

Officials in Broward County, Florida, also confirmed Wedesday that Morales pleaded no contest on August 13 to crack-cocaine possession and driving with a suspended license stemming from a July traffic stop. He was arrested last year for trying to sell stolen airplane parts and stealing a model airplane and tool box. He was subsequently put on three years' probation.

Meanwhile, Germany's Die Zeit newspaper has published exerpts of a recent interview with the singer in which she describes an eerie recurring dream:

"It is dark in my favorite dream. Someone is following me. I don't know why. I'm scared. Then suddenly I lift off. Far away. How do I feel? As if I am swimming in the air. Free. Weightless. Nobody can reach me. Nobody can touch me. It's a wonderful feeling."