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U.S. investigators to probe Aaliyah crash

ABACO, Bahamas (CNN) -- As fans and friends mourned the death of a rising star, officials from the United States are scheduled to head to the Bahamas Monday morning to assist authorities in determining what caused the plane crash that killed 22-year-old singer and actress Aaliyah and eight others.

National Transportation and Safety Board spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said the Bahamas government requested assistance from the United States, which is "not uncommon" when a U.S.-manufactured aircraft is involved.

The four-person team will consist of a representative from the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration, Cessna Aircraft Co. and Continental Motors, the engine manufacturer, Lopatkiewicz said.

Aaliyah's family said Sunday it was "devastated" by her death in the crash in the Bahamas late Saturday night.

The family's statement said it was "devastated at the loss of their loving daughter and sister. Their hearts go out to those families who lost their loved ones in this tragic accident."

The Cessna passenger plane crashed and burst into flames shortly after taking off from the island of Abaco bound for Miami on Saturday night, police said.

Grand Bahamas Police Superintendent Basil Rahming said all nine aboard, including the pilot, were U.S. citizens. Anthony Dodd, 34, died at 3:30 a.m. Sunday shortly before he was scheduled to be airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Rahming said.

Aaliyah who was set to appear in the forthcoming sequel to "The Matrix," was on the island to film a new video.

Police said the plane was leaving Marsh Harbour airport around 6:50 p.m. when it crashed and was engulfed by flames.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the Cessna 402 was registered to Sky Stream of Pembroke Pines, Florida, and had been destined for Opa Locka, Florida.

"Everyone's in total shock," Rahming said. "You know, Abaco is a small island and we've never heard of anything ... like this before."

Gloria Knowles, who works for Abaco Air Ltd. at Marsh Harbour airport, said baggage handlers reported the plane was overloaded with suitcases.

She said the handlers and the plane's pilot complained about the heavy load but the passengers insisted on taking everything with them.

The NTSB had no comment on whether that report would be part of its investigation.

Quincy Jones, 68, the Grammy-winning producer, arranger and composer, said he was devastated by Aaliyah's death.

He said: "She was like one of my daughters, she was one of the sweetest girls in the world.

"She vacationed with me and my family together in Fiji. I loved her and respected her and I am absolutely devastated."

The Bahamas' Minister of Tourism Tommy Turnquest told The Associated Press: "We find it devastating and most unfortunate that after having this world-famous star Aaliyah and her crew select the Bahamas as their choice location for her latest video, the project has climaxed on such a tragic note."

"She appeared to be headed for superstardom," said Johnny Walker, a senior vice president with Island/Def Jam Records. Although Aaliyah worked for another label -- Virgin Records -- Walker had praise for the singer.

"Aaliyah clearly was an artist that had gifts .... She had the gift to produce, she had the gift to meet the public's undying demand for the craft that she had," Walker said.

Frank Ski, the host of V103, an R&B radio station in Atlanta, praised Aaliyah's "clean-cut image, her moral values" and said it was genuine.

"It's somebody that the R&B community can look up to .... It's not somebody who's been fabricated by producers or made up by image artists," he told CNN.

The victims, according to Rahming, were:

-- L. Marael, pilot (age unknown)

-- Aeliyatt (Aaliyah) Haughton, 22, White Plains, New York

-- Anthony Dodd, 34, Los Angeles, California

-- Eric Foreman, 29, Hollywood, California

-- Scott Gallin, 41, Pompano Beach, Florida

-- Keith Wallace, 49, Los Angeles, California

-- Gina Smith, 29, New Jersey

-- Douglas Kratz, 28, Hollywood, California (Virgin Records representative)

-- Christopher Maldonada, 32, New York

In July, Aaliyah released her third album -- the self-titled "Aaliyah" -- which debuted in the top five on the Billboard magazine album chart.

The disc was recorded while the entertainer was filming the big-screen adaptation of Anne Rice's "Queen of the Damned."

She made her film debut in last year's drama, "Romeo Must Die." Good reviews for that performance led to roles in the upcoming sequels to "The Matrix" with Keanu Reeves.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Aaliyah grew up in Detroit, Michigan. She released her first album, "Age Ain't Nothing But a Number," at the age of 14.

Her hit single "Try Again" from the "Romeo Must Die" soundtrack was nominated for R&B Song of the Year at this year's Soul Train "Lady of Soul" Awards that will be held on Tuesday.

Aaliyah won Best Female Video and Video from a Film for "Try Again" in the 2000 MTV awards.

In an interview in March 2000 interview with the Boston Herald, the singer described the origins of her name.

"Aaliyah is Arabic," she said, "a name with great power. When I began in this business and we were talking about my image as an artist, it was a family decision to use just the first name."






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