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Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell dies

  • Story Highlights
  • Billy Powell called 911 Tuesday night complaining of chest pains, police say
  • Paramedics found him unresponsive and he was pronounced dead at the scene
  • Powell, 56, survived 1977 plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant and 5 others
  • "Thanks for being you," one mourning fan writes on Lynyrd Skynyrd Web site
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(CNN) -- Billy Powell, keyboardist with the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died of a heart ailment at his condo in the Jacksonville, Florida, suburb of Orange Park, police said Thursday. He was 56.

Billy Powell plays piano as "American Idol" finalist Bo Bice sings with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 2005.

Billy Powell, center, poses with other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2006.

Powell, who died early Wednesday, had survived the band's October 1977 plane crash in Mississippi that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant; guitarist Steve Gaines; Gaines's sister, vocalist Cassie Gaines; an assistant road manager; and the pilot and copilot. Powell was seriously injured in the crash.

More than 40 fans left messages on a fan Web site.

"Billy, you are truely free now. Rock on with Ronnie and the gang. You also will be forever missed," read a note signed by traceyspruill.

"I cannot believe the hurt that I have felt from being a Skynyrd fan, but I realize that it only hurts so much because I love the members of this band like my own family. We will always miss you, Billy. I can hear your fingertips rolling off those ivory keys right now. Thanks for being you. Rest in peace and may God bless you," another fan wrote.

According to Orange Park Police Lt. Mark Cornett, Powell called 911 around midnight Tuesday from his condo at the Club Continental, complaining about chest pains.

"When paramedics and police arrived, they found him unresponsive on the bed," Cornett said. Powell was pronounced dead at the scene, and his cardiologist signed the death certificate at 1:52 a.m. ET Wednesday.

According to the officer, Powell missed an appointment with the same doctor on Tuesday.

Powell joined the original Skynyrd band in 1972, but he worked for the Jacksonville, Florida-based band for several years before that as a crew member.

Among the Southern rock band's acclaimed songs are "What's Your Name," "Freebird" and "Sweet Home Alabama," all released in the 1970s. "Sweet Home Alabama" reached the top 10 in 1974.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Two years after the plane crash, Powell, Allen Collins, Gary Rossington and Leon Wilkeson formed the Rossington-Collins Band. It broke up in 1982.

A new Lynyrd Skynyrd band formed in 1987 and included Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie's brother. It began a tour in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the plane was headed when it crashed. The band's last album, "Vicious Cycle," came out in 2003.

All About Lynyrd SkynyrdRock and Roll Hall of Fame and MuseumJacksonville

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