Regular People Who Died Alongside Celebrities

Few things get more headlines than the sudden and tragic death of a celebrity. When a big name with millions of fans, whose career and life brought joy and entertainment to the world is unexpectedly taken out of it, the event can be traumatic for society as a whole. There's nothing wrong with sincerely mourning those who, in a distant way, we loved, respected, and looked up to.

But sometimes, those celebrities don't die alone. Especially when they are involved in a plane crash or car accident of some kind, it's very common that others are killed as well. And since even celebrities know regular people, a lot of the time those other casualties aren't big names themselves. This means that lost in the coverage of a major news story – the death of a celebrity – are tragedies that for a much smaller group of people are far more personal. Watching a celebrity be lauded and remembered while your loved one is reduced to a line in an article or a passing comment in a news report has to be painful.

While they might not be household names, those who died alongside these famous celebrities had just as much value as human beings. It's important to remember them. Here are the regular people who died alongside celebrities.

Jackson Pollock: Edith Metzger

MoMA explains that Jackson Pollock was an American painter, who was born in 1912 and is most well-known for his drip paintings. Meanwhile, according to a passenger manifest from the S.S. Washington, Edith Metzger was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1931, but as her family was Jewish, she fled Europe with her father in 1940. They settled in New York City.

Before she died, Metzger was working at a beauty salon. It's also claimed she was the mistress of the salon's older, married owner. Edith Metzger had no connection to Jackson Pollock, other than she knew his mistress, Ruth Kligman, who got her hair done at the salon Edith worked at. In the summer of 1956, Pollock's wife Lee Krasner took an extended trip to Europe, so Kligman moved in with him at their home in the Hamptons. But Kligman recorded in her memoir (via New York Magazine) that Pollock was often drunk and angry, so she decided she needed a friend there. Metzger was that unlucky friend.

Metzger arrived in the Hamptons on August 11, meeting Pollock for the first time when she arrived on the train that morning. That evening, the trio headed out to a party with a very inebriated Pollock behind the wheel. After a stop where he drank more, Metzger refused to get back in the car with him. But Kligman convinced her, and shortly after, Pollock drove his convertible off the road. Both Pollock and Metzger died; Kligman sustained serious injuries. In the many news reports on the crash, Edith Metzger was barely mentioned, if at all.

Princess Diana: Henri Paul

If you are not familiar with Diana, Princess of Wales, then welcome to Earth, just-arrived extraterrestrial visitor. The Paris car crash that killed Diana and her famous Harrod's heir boyfriend Dodi Fayed in 1997 also badly injured their bodyguard, who was in the front passenger seat. The third casualty was the driver, Henri Paul, and remembering him as a victim is complicated, since he was in some ways responsible for the crash. British tabloid The Sun records that in a 2008 inquest, a jury found "The crash was caused or contributed to by the speed and manner of the driving of the Mercedes, the speed and manner of driving of the following [paparazzi] vehicles, [and] the impairment of the judgment of the driver of the Mercedes through alcohol."

According to the New York Times, French officials found Paul's blood alcohol level was between 0.173 and 0.187 when he crashed, three times the legal limit in France. This left his friends confused. ”He was not an alcoholic,” Dominique Melo, who had known Paul for 25 years, told the paper. ”I never had any hesitancy about getting into his car with him at the end of a dinner. ... What happened is just incomprehensible to all of us.”

The information that came out about his life after he died was equally complicated. His long-term on-off girlfriend Laurence Pujol told Le Figaro (via The Irish Times) why she finally ended things with him for good: "He was too protective, too paternalistic with me. I couldn't bear the situation."

Kobe Bryant: Eight others, including his daughter

Only a couple months before the United States would lock down due to the coronavirus pandemic, seemingly the entire county was rocked by the death of LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna, an up-and-coming basketball player in her own right, but not truly famous in the way the underage offspring of celebrities sometimes are, died alongside him. There were seven even lesser-known people in the helicopter as well. According to ABC News, their names were John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah and Payton Chester, and Ara Zobayan.

The Altobelli family was John, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa. John was a college baseball coach for 27 years. Keri was described by a friend as "loving and extremely loyal" who juggled her family and business demands "effortlessly." A teammate of Gianna, 14-year-old Alyssa was remembered as a generous player who always had a motivational comment to give.

Christina Mauser was a "top assistant coach" of the young girls' basketball team, and as her husband noted, she was handpicked by Kobe because she was "exceptional." Sarah Chester was a former teacher and mother of the 13-year-old Payton, who was built to be a player at 5'11". Sarah's former principal called the pair "genuine, kind-hearted, and caring." For the pilot Ara Zobayan, flying was "his life's passion," according to his employers, and he paid that forward by giving flying lessons.

One year after the crash, USA Today talked to the loved ones of the victims, all of whom were still struggling with the emotional effects of the tragedy.

Paul Walker: Roger Rodas

Paul Walker started out in Hollywood as a teen heartthrob, before finding a second wave of fame and a new fanbase by starring in the "Fast and Furious" franchise. His love for cars was not limited to his film roles, though, which makes the manner of his death all the more tragic. On November 20, 2013, Walker was at a fundraiser in Santa Clarita for his nonprofit, when he hopped into a sports car driven by his friend Roger Rodas.

The official coroner's report (via KHTS) explains what happened next: "Rodas was driving a red Porsche Carrera GT at an unsafe speed, approximately 100+ mph ... For unknown reasons, the driver lost control of his vehicle..." The resulting fiery crash killed both the men.

According to CNN, Rodas, a 38-year-old wealth management director, was originally from El Salvador. He and Walker had a shared obsession with fast cars, and Rodas owned his own racing shop and racing team. CBS News reports he and Walker co-founded the charity whose fundraiser they were attending when they died, Reach Out Worldwide. At the time, they were holding these fundraisers every weekend to raise money for the dual purposes of helping "people affected by the typhoon in the Philippines and to provide toys for kids who wouldn't have presents around the holidays." After his death, Rodas' friends couldn't say enough nice things about him, with one explaining, "He was a simple guy. He loves cars, he loves to drive. He's such a family person, too. Nothing but love, all from the heart."

Aaliyah: Eight others

While Aaliyah had already made a huge impact on the music scene of the late '90s and was poised to make the leap to Hollywood superstardom, her death on August 25, 1997 was sadly overshadowed by that of Princess Diana, who also died suddenly in an accident less than a week later. ABC News reports Aliyah was in the Bahamas filming a music video. When the small plane was loaded for the return trip to Miami, the pilot refused to take off because it was far too heavy. After a big argument, he gave in. The resulting crash killed all nine of those on board.

The Los Angeles Times says everyone else on the plane was part of Aaliyah's entourage. Douglas Kratz, age 28, was a video producer from California who'd been working with Virgin Records for two years, per the Burbank Leader. Bodyguard Scott Gallin, age 41, was 6'8" and 300 lbs. but described by friends as a "gentle giant" and amazing single father (via the Sun-Sentinel). Stylists Eric Forman, 29, and Anthony Dodd, 34, were business partners who had worked with a truly impressive slate of some of the biggest names in music, including Jennifer Lopez and Destiny's Child. Keith Wallace, 49, and Gina Smith, 29, were both managers at Aaliyah's label, Blackground Entertainment. Wallace was remembered as a devote Christian.

Very little information is available on Scott Gallin, age 41, and Christopher Maldonado, age 32. Even less is known about L. Marael, the pilot who tried to keep the plane from taking off.

Jayne Mansfield: Samuel Brody and Ronnie Harrison

Jayne Mansfield was once a star in the mold of Marilyn Monroe, per Her life saw similar complications to the more famous blonde bombshell as well, especially with men. Mansfields' marriage to bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay resulted in three children before they divorced: Mickey Jr., Zoltan, and Mariska. On June 29, 1967, the 34-year-old Mansfield, her three children, her lover Sam Brody, and their driver Ronnie Harrison were on a highway late at night with limited visibility. The car slammed into an 18-wheeler, and the three adults were killed. The three children were unharmed.

Lawyer Sam Brody had pursued Mansfield even though he was married, and once they were together proved to be angry and violent, according to "Jayne Mansfield: A Biography." The British tabloid The Daily Mail reports that Brody was so obsessive and abusive that even the Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey tried to get Mansfield to end the relationship (she was interested in the religion, but never joined).

Their driver Ronnie Harrison was just 19 and engaged to be married. According to his fiancé, Elaine Stevens (via The Hollywood Reporter), they were planning to elope just three days later: she was pregnant. Stevens told Fox News that Harrison agreed to drive Mansfield to a TV recording in order to earn extra money for wedding expenses, even though he already worked three jobs. After his death, to avoid scandal, Stevens was forced to give up their daughter for adoption and would only see her again three decades later.

The Day the Music Died: Roger Peterson

Sometimes famous people die alongside other famous people. The most notorious tragedy which killed multiple celebrities arguably took place on "The Day the Music Died," when, Biography notes, a single plane crash took out Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. The three young men were all up-and-coming musicians who, considering their post-death fame and staying power, probably could have gone on to have long and prolific careers. The trio were in the middle of a 24-stop tour and having just finished a concert were headed to the next one, this time choosing to take a plane rather than their tour bus.

But there was one other person on the small plane, the 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson, which gives him the morbid distinction of being a regular person to die alongside not one but three celebrities. Or, according to the official aircraft accident report from the Civil Aeronautics Board, you could argue he inadvertently killed them.

Biography notes that despite being so young, Peterson had a lot of experience, having been flying since he was 17. UPI reported he was employed by the Dwyer Flying Service. While Biography says Peterson was unaware of a weather advisory when the plane took off, the official report scathingly gave its findings: "This accident ... was caused by the pilot's decision to undertake a flight ... in the mistaken belief that he could cope with en route instrument weather conditions..." Peterson's local paper, the Globe-Gazette, reported that he was survived by his wife.

Albert Camus: Michel Gallimard

The author and philosopher Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957, when he was only 44 (he is still the second-youngest recipient of that award as of 2022, per the official Nobel site). Camus was an absurdist philosopher and The New York Times reports that it's alleged he said being killed in a car crash would be the most absurd way to die. While that might be apocryphal, Britannica records that after Camus really did die in a car crash, his fellow philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said it was "a scandal because it suddenly projects into the center of our human world the absurdity of our most fundamental needs."

The driver of the car in question was Camus' good friend Michel Gallimard. He was a successful publisher but lived in the shadow of his uncle, Gaston Gallimard, a publishing giant in France who saw Michel as his heir. This meant Michel had plenty of money, and could afford a Facel Vega, an exotic and powerful car also owned by Oscar winners and princes, according to The New York Times. Camus's family spent Christmas 1959 with Michel Gallimard and his family. Camus was planning to travel back to Paris by train, but Michel talked him into driving with the Gallimards. On January 4, on a straight stretch of road clear of ice, Michel's car suddenly swerved into a tree. Camus was killed instantly, and Michel died a few days later. The publisher's wife and daughter were unscathed.

The absurd nature of the crash immediately led to conspiracy theories. A large front-page headline in a January 1960 edition of Les Lettres Francaises asked "Did Michel Gallimard kill Albert Camus?"

Troy Gentry: James Evan Robinson

Country star Troy Gentry performed with Eddie Montgomery under the name, fittingly enough, Montgomery Gentry. The New York Times records the duo had three albums go platinum, topped the Billboard country chart twice, and were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009 (per The Moultrie Observer). Before a concert in New Jersey in 2017, Gentry decided to take what was later described as an "impromptu, spur of the moment" helicopter flight.

He went up with 30-year-old pilot James Evan Robinson of Helicopter Flight Services. Robinson had years of experience and was a flight instructor as well as a pilot. But something went badly wrong on this flight. "Not long after takeoff, the pilot announced over the airport frequency – which was being monitored by a number of people – that he was having difficulty controlling engine RPM," senior air safety investigator Brian Rayner told People. While there was communication back and forth and Robinson attempted to land, the helicopter crashed, killing both him and Gentry.

Helicopter Flight Services posted a tribute to Robinson on Facebook, and further added in a comment on the post, "[Robinson] lived in heaven here on earth. Loved what he was doing." The Georgia native seems to have always known he wanted to fly, getting his BA from Middle Georgia State University in Aviation Science and Management. His obituary records he was unmarried, a member of the Baptist church, and had two sisters.

Sharon Tate: Four other victims

Sharon Tate's murder when 9 months pregnant at the hands of Charles Manson's followers is notorious, but the names of the four other murder victims who died at her house that night are somewhat less well-known.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports hairdresser to the stars Jay Sebring, 35, was arguably almost a celebrity himself, with clients including Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, and Warren Beatty. Sebring was in the military for four years and learned to cut hair while he was fighting overseas in the Korean War.

Abigail "Gibby" Folger was heiress to her family's eponymous coffee business. Like many people who don't need to work in order to pay bills, she bounced from job to job, but she was generally interested in creative sectors like art and publishing. Folger was murdered two days before she would have turned 26.

Folger's boyfriend, Wojciech Frykowski, aged 32, met Tate's husband Roman Polanski when they were both students in Poland. The director wrote about their friendship in his memoirs, calling Frykowski "good-natured, soft-hearted to the point of sentimentality and utterly loyal" (via the AJC). While his degree was in chemistry, Frykowski loved movies and came to the U.S. in 1967, where he met Folger.

The 18-year-old Steven Parent didn't know Tate, and was only at the house to see the caretaker. Parent was one of those prodigies whose genius can sometimes lead to trouble. In his case, his love of electronics, taking them apart and learning how they worked, eventually led to theft, which landed him in juvenile detention. Had he lived, he would have fit right into the technological world that was coming.

JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy: Lauren Bessette

John F. Kennedy Jr.'s name is all you need to hear to realize why he was so famous and, as an adult, a tabloid favorite. When he started dating Carolyn Bessette she wasn't a celebrity herself, but by the time they had been married a few years, she was just as big a name and a style icon, per Harper's Bazaar.

However, Carolyn's sister Lauren Bessette was still a private citizen. While she was connected to a glamorous celebrity life through her relationship with her now-famous sister, Lauren didn't seek the spotlight, instead becoming an investment banker. "She was very professional," one former Morgan Stanley executive told Observer. "At that time, most of the women who really came across well were ... very, very much focused on the career ... She was much more balanced." That didn't mean she was slacking in the career department, though, even when compared to her famous sister and brother-in-law, with another former co-work saying, "She may have been more successful than they were." However, Lauren did share some of the attributes that made Carolyn so notable. "She was an unusually attractive woman," noted another colleague. "She was really kind of a knockout. I thought she was beautiful, and I was just struck."

Then on July 16, 1999, JFK Jr. flew out of New York in a plane carrying Carolyn and Lauren, headed to Massachusetts. He was an inexperienced pilot, so when the plane never arrived, people feared the worst. Eventually, their bodies were found. A typical headline read "JFK Jr., Wife Feared Dead" (via Town & Country). Lauren Bessette was 34.