Aaliyah was reluctant to board the flight that ultimately cost the singer’s life and had taken a sleeping pill just hours earlier, according to new claims.
Kingsley Russell, whose family ran a taxi firm in the Bahamas, was with the star when his stepmother drove her team to the airport as she prepared to return to the US in August 2001.
Russell was just 13-years-old and worked as a baggage carrier as the singer prepared to return home.
However, he now claims that the singer refused to board the plane when she first saw it and went back to sleep in the car driven by his stepmother, telling her team she had a headache.
Aaliyah, who is said to have passed out in the back of the cab, was allegedly carried onto the plane while sleeping, despite her past reservations.
The flight claimed her life just hours later, with the singer and the eight members of her entourage killed when the plane crashed shortly after take-off about 200 feet from the end of the runway.
The plane struggled to gain altitude, and it was later revealed that the small twin-engine Cessna was significantly over its allotted weight limit by several hundred pounds.
Russell, who is now 33, has opened up for the first time in a new book, Baby Girl: Better Known as Aaliyah, by music journalist Kathy Iandoli.
He added that Aaliyah is said to have repeated her concerns about getting on the plane and was eventually handed a sleeping pill. She reportedly fell into a deep sleep before being transferred onto the plane.
“They took her out of the van; she didn’t even know she was getting boarded on a plane,” Russell states in the book. “She went on the airplane asleep.”
An subsequent autopsy found that Aaliyah suffered major head trauma and extensive burns that meant her survival was “unthinkable”.
‘I remember when Aaliyah passed away, I was really upset,’ Iandoli added to The Daily Beast. “The story kept saying that she was adamant about getting on the plane. I was almost upset with her. Why did you want to get on that plane so badly?
“In learning that she did not want to get on the plane, for someone like myself and so many other people, I think that’s closure for us. It’s an unfortunate closure… but I needed to hear she didn’t want to get on that plane; I needed to know that. The person who I thought had the most common sense in the world had common sense to not get on the plane. The fact that she was so adamant, staying in the cab, refusing — these are things we never knew.”
Iandoli added: “The only thing I’ve taken with me is that after 20 years, I can finally say that Aaliyah didn’t want to get on the plane. That makes me feel a little better, but not much. This didn’t have to happen. She should still be here, and I think that’s the saddest part about it. She deserved better.”