Willie Spence's family has opened up one day after the Season 19 American Idol runner-up died in a car accident in Tennessee. In addition to a press conference in Florida, the family has shared thoughts on what could have — and what likely didn't — cause him to crash.

The 23-year-old was driving a Jeep Cherokee when he veered off I-24 near Chattanooga, Tenn., on Tuesday (Oct. 11). His vehicle hit another vehicle that was stopped on the side of the road. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured. Family have added that the other vehicle was a semi-truck.

"Willie was our gentle giant," his cousin Sabrena Cooper said during a press conference assembled outside his grandmother's home in Riviera Beach, Fla. WEAR-TV shared that story and the quotes.

"He had such a soft demeanor but a very, very powerful voice," she adds. "When he opened his mouth and lifted the Lord in song, many would just stop in their tracks to listen to him. Now Willie is in heaven, singing the lead in the heaven's choir."

What caused Spence to crash has not been reported officially, but speaking to TMZ, family says it likely was not alcohol. He was leaving Tennessee State University's homecoming weekend, but he wasn't a drinker. Instead, they suggest that a long weekend may have left him fatigued. It's possible he just fell asleep at the wheel.

TSU is in Nashville. Spence's family say he was driving to Atlanta to meet with a group that helps abused and trafficked women, and he was very excited about the partnership. Cooper (Spence's cousin) has organized a GoFundMe looking to raise $50,000 for the family. As of Thursday morning, more than $2,200 has been raised.

Spence finished second to Chayce Beckham during Season 19 of American Idol in 2021. Beckham and judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie all paid tribute to the late singer within hours of hearing of his death. Just hours before the crash, Spence posted a video of himself singing a worship song to his Instagram page.

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