Exhumation - The Big Bopper

Dr. Bill Bass, who examined J.P. Richardson's body decades after the airplane crash, was totally surprised when he first saw The Big Bopper's remains.  They were unbelievably well-preserved.

In addition to this video - in which he describes what he found - Bass includes the exhumation story in his book, Beyond the Body Farm.  Here is an excerpt from Chapter 15:

Jay Richardson [the Bopper's son who was born two months after his father died] stepped up beside the upper end [of the coffin].  I stood beside him.  A hush fell over the group as Rodney Landry grasped one edge of the lid and gave a tug. 

After nearly half a century in the soggy ground, the lid raised smoothly and silently.  As it did, it revealed one of the most remarkable sights I've ever seen in my career.  What I saw, and what Jay Richardson saw, was not a bare skull or rotting tissue.  What we saw was the Big Bopper himself, complete with his trademark crew cut.  The skin was discolored — a mottled bluish-purple — but the features were instantly recognizable, and bore a striking resemblance to those of the man who stood beside me, getting his first glimpse of his father in the flesh.

The body's condition was all the more remarkable in view of the damage it must have suffered in the plane crash.  Embalming fluid is volatile, and it gradually leaches out of the body, even if the skin has no breaks.  In cases of extensive trauma, trying to fill a body with embalming fluid is like trying to fill a sieve or a sponge.  To help lessen the leakage, the funeral home had zipped the body inside a "Unionall," a leak-resistant jumpsuit, before dressing the Bopper in his funeral suit.


Dr. Bass is wrong on several facts as he provides a history of the crash (at the beginning of this embedded video). 

  • Most notably, the probable-cause report - prepared by the Civil Aeronautics Board - tells us that Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens were also thrown from the plane.  Official photos, supporting the report, confirm that three bodies were found on the ground at the crash site.  Only the pilot, Roger Peterson, remained inside the aircraft after the crash landing.
  • In addition, the plane did not leave Mason City Municipal Airport in a snowstorm.  The airplane's owner told the investigators that he was able to watch the plane after it took off.  See the official report for more details.

Media Credits

Embedded video, of televised interview with Dr. Bill Bass, is online courtesy KOMO's Channel at YouTube.


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Exhumation - The Big Bopper" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 17, 2014. Jan 17, 2020.
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