Buddy Holly's crash site

Crash Site Location in Clear Lake, Iowa

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Buddy Holly's crash site

This is Buddy Holly's crash site.

It is located near the corner of Gully Avenue and 315th Street in Clear Lake, Iowa.

In the early hours of February 3rd, 1959, Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, and Ritchie Valens chartered a private plane to fly them to Moorhead, Minnesota.

At the time, they had just finished performing at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

Holly, who had performed at eleven locations in eleven days, was reportedly tired of traveling by bus.

By that stage, the musicians had been forced to swap vehicles multiple times due to mechanical issues. Furthermore, the Midwest was freezing cold at that time of year, and none of the buses seemed to have a functioning heating system.

When faced with the prospect of having to take a five-hour drive to Moorhead, Holly decided to hire a private plane instead.

After booking a flight with a company called Dwyer Flying Service, the three musicians flew out of Mason City Municipal Airport on a small Beechcraft 35 Bonanza aircraft. Their pilot was a 21-year-old local man named Roger Peterson.

Although Peterson had more than 700 hours of flight time, he was only certified to operate in conditions that allowed him to see the ground. Furthermore, the gyroscope on the plane was different than the one he typically used.

That night, he had to fly over a dark rural area that had very little ground lighting. To complicate matters even further, the clouds were low that night, and Peterson's weather briefing failed to warn him about the worsening flying conditions.

Within minutes of taking off, the plane struck the ground at a high speed before cartwheeling through this field beside Gully Avenue.

The coroner's report stated that Holly, Richardson, Valens, and Peterson were all killed on impact, as the four men suffered extensive brain injuries and multiple fractures that were incompatible with life.

The crash site wasn't discovered until the next day, when the owner of Dwyer Flying Service became worried about Peterson's radio silence. By that stage, hours had passed, and the young pilot still hadn't contacted him.

Sensing that something was wrong, he decided to take a plane up into the sky and retrace the pilot's route.

It wasn't long before his worst fears were realized. Shortly after takeoff, he spotted the wreckage in this field outside of Clear Lake.

Buddy Holly crash site location

The address and the GPS coordinates for this location are as follows:


Gull Avenue, Clear Lake, Iowa, IA 50428, USA


To view directions on how to get there, you can use the Google Maps shortcut below:

Google Maps

GPS coordinates

The latitude and longitude coordinates for the site are:

43.220372, -93.381339


The site is situated in a rural area that is about seven miles north of Clear Lake. It lies to the west of Interstate 35. The entrance is at the corner of 315th Street and Gull Avenue. Follow the coordinates above to find the exact spot.


Photos of the site and other related images.

Plane route

plane route

This aerial map shows the route that Holly's plane took on that fateful night.

At 12:55 a.m., the Bonanza aircraft took off from Mason City Municipal Airport, heading southbound. Shortly afterwards, it veered to the east and then headed northward towards Moorhead, Minnesota.

As you can see, it did not get far. Minutes after take-off, it crashed into a field and cartwheeled along the ground until it hit a fence (pictured in the top left-hand corner).

The plane hit the ground at such a high speed (170 mph) that it would have been virtually impossible to survive the impact.

Memorial site

Memorial site

Image source: Dennis Schettler on Google Maps

This Google Street View image of the entrance to the memorial site was taken in August 2020.

The bollards beside the road are decorated with a large pair of "Buddy Holly" glasses.

Holly's crash site

Holly's crash site

Image source: Charles P on Google Maps

Fans often leave flowers, glasses, flags, and memorial plaques at the exact spot where the plane crashed into the fence.

Note that the crash site is beside a cornfield. The area may look completely different when you visit it, depending on the time of year.

The image above was taken in June, when the corn was newly planted. However, by August, the corn begins to tower over you on both sides.


Buddy Holly crash site map

The public can visit Holly's crash site by using a pathway that is sandwiched in between the two fields. Most visitors tend to park their vehicles on the gravel road beside the entrance.

The pathway in question is about 600 yards (550 meters) long. The average person can walk it in 5–10 minutes.

Please note that it can become quite muddy during wet weather as the pathway is not paved.

If you do plan on visiting the site, make sure that you wear appropriate footwear.

The Day the Music Died

The Day the Music Died

February 3rd, 1959, became known as "The Day the Music Died" after singer Don McLean referenced it as such in his song "American Pie".

Initially, J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) and Ritchie Valens weren't supposed to be on the flight. Instead, it was supposed to be Buddy Holly, Tommy Allsup, and Waylon Jennings.

However, Richardson had come down with the flu and was reportedly complaining that the bus was too cold. As a result, Jennings allowed him to take his seat on the plane.

Meanwhile, Valens, who had also been experiencing flu-like symptoms, asked Allsup if he could have his seat. In response, Allsup agreed to gamble his place in a coin toss.

When Valens won the coin toss, he allegedly quipped that it was the first time he had ever won anything in his life.

By early February, the musicians were tired of their grueling and poorly managed "Winter Dance Party" tour, which had zigzagged back and forth across the Midwest instead of circling it in an organized fashion.

Not only did the flight spare them from having to take another long bus journey in the freezing cold, it also offered them the chance to wash their clothes and get some much-needed rest.

Sadly, their pilot, Roger Peterson, was not experienced enough to handle the wintry flying conditions. His weather briefing also lacked important information.

Consequently, he lost control of the aircraft shortly after take-off.

The plane hit the ground at such a speed that all of the occupants sustained multiple fractures and skull injuries.

None of them survived the initial impact.

Crash photos

crash photos

These photographs of the wreckage were taken the following morning.

The authorities disclosed Holly's name to the media before his pregnant wife, Maria, had been notified. As a result, she found out about her husband's death on the news.

She was so shocked and traumatized by this that she suffered a miscarriage the next day.

Following this incident, most authorities adopted a policy to withhold the names of victims until their families had been informed.

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