The chartered plane transporting the iconic country rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed 43 years ago in rural Mississippi after running out of fuel on its way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Six of the 26 people aboard the plane died including lead vocalist and founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray.
For years, Frynds of Lynyrd Skynyrd have worked to erect a monument near the crash site and ensure fans can find it. Last year, a beautiful monument was unveiled at Mississippi Highway 568 and Easley Road in Pike County telling the story of the band and the crash. This year, the Frynds are celebrating Mississippi’s erecting signage on Interstate 55 south of Magnolia and near the monument itself so that fans can easily find the monument.
A dedication of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Monument tourism signs is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m. at the monument on Highway 568 and Easley Road. Organizers expect several state dignitaries to speak at the event and will offer refreshments.
The road to getting the monument and signage completed hasn’t been easy. From fundraising to navigating the rules governing monuments and signs, the Frynds had to jump through numerous hoops to accomplish their goal.
Things began looking up when rescuer Dwain Easley and his family donated the land for the monument. With private land and no local or state regulations to deal with, the project was back on the fast track. The group also partnered with the Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center Foundation to provide credibility and leadership to accelerate the cause.
Dave Pace, Kevin Laird and the Brookhaven Monument crew broke records, broke company rules, and called in every favor available to have the 14-foot wide by 8-foot tall monument placed by Oct. 20, 2019.
The Mississippi Legislature stepped up this year to have the Department of Transportation erect tourism signs on Interstate 55 at Exit 8 and on Highway 568 at Easley Road to direct visitors to the Lynyrd Skynyrd Monument.
In the year after dedicating the monument, guests have come from 39 states, five Canadian provinces and 18 countries. The Lynyrd Skynyrd Monument has become one of the area’s largest tourist attractions.