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Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering a tragedy; honoring a legacy

Encore presentation of ’The Legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd’ documentary airs Sunday evening on CW17

VIDEO: The Legacy of Lynyrd Sknyrd now includes a black granite monument along a rural Mississippi road honoring the memory of the plane crash 42 years that nearly wiped out the Jacksonville based southern rock band.

It was a reunion like no other in the history of rock and roll.

Loved ones of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve and Cassie Gaines were there. So were survivors of the Mississippi plane crash 42 years ago that killed Ronnie, Steve and Cassie, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick of Jacksonville, the pilot and co-pilot.

The hosts of the gathering were rescuers and first responders who rushed into the swampy, wooded area after the Convair 240 went down near the town of Gillslburg.

Everybody there -- from Ronnie Van Zant’s widow to Steve Gaines’ daughter to sound-men and lighting riggers who worked for the touring band to the volunteer firemen and “Mississippi farm boys” who saved 20 lives that autumn night -- had powerful stories to tell. Many of their stories had never been told before.

As the only Jacksonville television reporter who went to the scene of the crash in October 1977 to report on the tragedy and who returned there more than four decades later, they shared those stories with me.

WATCH: ‘The Legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd’ preview | A look at the documentary

At 9 p.m. Thursday on WJXT’s sister station, CW17, I brought you these dramatic stories in an hour-long special, “The Legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd." There will be an encore presentation of the special at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec 29, also on CW17.

About the Author:

Tom Wills joined Channel 4 in 1975 and has co-anchored Jacksonville's highest-rated evening newscasts for more than 40 years.