Jade Small
Jade Small
April 1, 2024 ·  3 min read

How Ricky Nelson saved the lives of his twin boys on the mysterious plane accident that led to his own death

So many people around the world have fears of flying. The idea of the plane malfunctioning and falling through the clouds towards the ground, or worse, the ocean is too terrible to bear. Did you know that Ricky Nelson died in a plane crash? Probably. But, did you know that he saved his twin boys’ lives in the process of losing his own? This is the story of how Ricky, the teen heartthrob of the 1950s, died a hero.

Image credit: Twitter

The life of Ricky Nelson

Ricky nelson was not always known as Ricky. He was born on May 8, 1940, in Teaneck, New Jersey. His birth name is Eric Hilliard Nelson, but it fits better to say Ricky Nelson as a stage name. His parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were known for their roles in one of the longest-running American sitcoms, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” It eventually stopped after 16 years.

In school, Ricky Nelson was not exactly a star student, nor one that tried their best for that matter. He was not keen on education, which was upsetting for his father. He wanted Ricky to go to college. this seemed redundant to Ricky, especially at the time most of his friends started applying to college. For you see, Ricky was already earning a higher income than any well-degreed adult.

During his years acting in the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky played a son on an episode called, “Ricky, the Drummer”. This song, “I’m Walking” was released as his first single, and was very soon number four on Billboard’s Best Sellers list. Thus, his music career began along with his acting. Some songs of his were: “Fools Rush In,” “Garden Party,” and “For You.

In 1963, Ricky Nelson got married to Kristin Harmon after two years of dating. Together they had four children. The first was Sam Hilliard Nelson, and the fourth was Tracy Kristine Nelson, who went on to become an actress like her father. The middle children were twins called Matthew Gray Nelson and Gunnar Eric Nelson.

Image credit: Twitter

Death by plane crash

Ricky Nelson’s death was untimely, to say the least. Not only that, but many people still ponder over its mysteriousness. He was on a tour when his plane had an in-flight accident, killing all eight passengers. The irony was that Ricky had an intense fear of flying. On this particular flight, his twin sons, Matthew and Gunner, were meant to be on board with their father. “We were supposed to be on the plane on that trip,” said Gunner. “Our dad called us right before we were supposed to come down to Alabama and meet him and fly with him to the New Year’s show in Dallas.”

Some intuitive feelings caused Ricky to call his sons and tell them they should not fly together. The DC-3 plane loaded up its passenger, including Ricky and eight others. But, his sons stayed behind. As the plane got close to its destination, a fire broke out. The cabin filled up with smoke, and killed everyone inside. the pilots were able to safely land the plane in Texas, but it was too late.

Speculation was made over how the fire even started. Rickey Nelson was dating Helen Blaine at the time. His manager, Greg McDonald, said they were both asleep at the time the fire started. Others say Ricky was using recreational drugs like cocaine. However, his brother denies that Ricky ever used the illicit drug.

Image credit: Twitter

If it wasn’t for Ricky Nelson’s loud gut feeling, his sons would have been victims of the airplane fire as well. However, thanks to their father, they lived on. Both had successful music careers which probably would have made their dad proud. Matthew said: “It’s an ongoing labor of love, an open letter to our dad, who was our best friend.”


  1. Ricky Nelson: The tragic death of a teen idol and rock legend remembered.Gold Radio UK. October 21,2022.
  2. How Ricky Nelson saved the lives of his twin boys on the mysterious plane accident that led to his own death.Newsner. December 7, 2022.