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Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist dead at 56

Jan. 28, 2009 at 3:13 PM
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player Billy Powell died Wednesday in his Orange Park, Fla., home, police said. He was 56.

Orange Park police told WJXT-TV, Jacksonville, Fla., Powell called 911 just before 1 a.m. complaining he was having trouble breathing, but paramedics arrived to find him unresponsive.

It is believed the musician suffered a fatal heart attack, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of his death, Ross Schilling, a publicist with Vector Management, told WJXT. Powell had skipped an appointment with his cardiologist Tuesday, police said.

Powell gained some notoriety when he survived a 1977 plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd's lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, Gaines's sister and backup vocalist Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick.

Powell is survived by his son, Richard.

"Beloved pianist for the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, Billy Powell, passed away last night. We will post more info shortly. The family and band request your respect and understanding during this difficult time. Thank you," the southern rock group said in a statement posted on its Web site Wednesday.

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