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Singer-thesp Aaliyah dies in plane crash

Eight others die in Bahamas after lensing musicvid

Prodigious R&B talent and budding thesp Aaliyah was killed along with eight other people Saturday when a small Cessna passenger plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Marsh Harbour airport in the Bahamas.

The 22-year-old, whose real name was Aaliyah Haughton, was returning to the U.S. after lensing was completed on her musicvid for her single “Rock the Boat” on the Bahamian island of Abaco.

Also lost in the crash were Gina Smith and Keith Wallace of Aaliyah’s label Blackground Records, and Doug Kratz, director of video production at Virgin Records, which has a joint venture with Blackground.

In a statement, Blackground said it “is devastated with the loss of our Queen. The example she showed young people will be sorely missed, and we hope her short time on earth will be an inspiration to young people all over the world.”

Saturday’s crash left fans, friends and collaborators in mourning.

“She was like one of my daughters, she was one of the sweetest girls in the world,” said producer, arranger and composer Quincy Jones. “She vacationed with me and my family together in Fiji. I loved her and respected her and I am absolutely devastated.”

The plane, headed for Opa-Locka airport near Miami, apparently suffered engine failure and crashed about 200 feet from the end of the runway, according to the Grand Bahamas police department.

Born in Brooklyn in 1979, Aaliyah started auditioning for record companies and television shows at age 9. By 11, she was singing on stage in Las Vegas with the Gladys Knight troupe.

In 1994, she released her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number,” which went platinum. Aaliyah allegedly married her producer and fellow singer R. Kelly and that union was reportedly annulled.

In 1996, she released her sophomore effort “One in a Million.”

Repped by CAA, Aaliyah made her film debut last year opposite chopsocky legend Jet Li in Warner Bros.’ “Romeo Must Die.” She also toplined “Queen of the Damned” for WB. Pic is in post-production.

Her single “Try Again” earned her a Grammy nom for best female R&B vocalist earlier this year. The young diva’s first album with Virgin, titled “Aaliyah,” bowed at No. 2 on the charts in July.

“Aaliyah, one of the world’s brightest and most talented stars, will be mourned by all who loved her and loved her music,” Virgin said in a statement. “Her depth and versatility as an artist was matched by the passion and devotion she had for her craft.”

Aaliyah was slated to appear in WB/Village Roadshow’s “The Matrix: Reloaded,” as well as a third installment of the hit sci-fi franchise. “Reloaded” has already started special effects work on in San Francisco, with actual production skedded to begin next month in Australia.

Singer was also attached to star in WB’s “Sparkle” remake and “Some Kind of Blue,” in development for State Street Pictures and Fox 2000.

She was also slated to appear at the Sept. 6 MTV Music Awards.

(Dana Harris in Los Angeles and Reuters contributed to this report.)

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