Tributes have been paid to the “funniest, sweetest, loveliest, most creative lads” from Liverpool indie group Her’s, who were killed in Arizona while travelling to a show in California.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, 24, and Audun Laading, 25, died alongside their tour manager Trevor Engelbrektson early on Wednesday, according to a statement by their record label Heist Or Hit.
The crash that killed both members of British band Her’s and their tour manager was caused by a “wrong-way driver”, according to US authorities.
Officials in Arizona said a Nissan pick-up had been “travelling eastbound on the westbound lane” of Interstate 10 before hitting the duo’s Ford van, the BBC reported.
They had performed in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday and were driving about 350 miles to Santa Ana, California, when the crash happened.
Brits critics’ choice award-winner Sam Fender tweeted that he was “absolutely devastated”, adding: “Fell in love with their debut album when a good friend back home put them on. I’m truly heartbroken for their friends and family.
“R.I.P you two beautiful boys.”
The head of music at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), where Fitzpatrick and Laading had studied, said the teaching staff are devastated.
Martin Isherwood described the duo as “the funniest, sweetest, loveliest, most creative lads you can ever meet”.
He said: “I know people say these things in situations like this, but it’s absolutely true, they were just so down to earth.
“Their music is a real eclectic mix of retro influences but with a new contemporary edge to it, really creative. The songs are just great and we all thought that they were going to be one of the biggest things out of Liverpool.”
Mr Isherwood added: “It’s utterly tragic. I’m very upset and the whole music team here is devastated. Our thoughts and condolences go out to their family and friends at this sad, difficult time.”
Fitzpatrick and Laading studied music at LIPA, where they met and formed their band before graduating in 2016.
Liverpool indie rockers Circa Waves tweeted: “We’re completely shocked and saddened at the devastating news about @ThatBandOfHers and their tour manager. Our thoughts are with their family & friends at this awful time.”
A Twitter post from BBC Introducing, the BBC radio platform that supports unsigned and undiscovered UK artists, said: “Everyone at Introducing is very sad to hear the devastating news about @ThatBandOfHers and their tour manager.
“Her’s were supported by @Dave_Monks at Intro in Merseyside and their music had been featured across BBC Radio. Our love & thoughts go out to their friends and families.”
Birmingham venue The Castle and Falcon, where Her’s had previously played, said it “was a pleasure to have the band perform for us and we always knew they’d be successful.
“They were one of those bands that got you excited about music all over again”.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS) said that four people were killed on Interstate 10 when a Ford van carrying three people - confirmed to be Fitzpatrick, Laading and Engelbrektson - collided with a Nissan.
A statement said the “head-on” collision happened “just after a wrong-way driver was reported eastbound in the westbound lanes” on the I-10, implying that the Nissan was in the eastbound lane, as Her’s were travelling westbound from Arizona to California.
The AZDPS said that both vehicles were engulfed in flames, adding: “There was no roadway evidence to indicate braking by either vehicle prior to impact. An alcoholic beverage container was located in the debris field.”
The driver of the Nissan has been named as Francisco Edward Rebollar, 64, who also died.
Her’s were on their second tour of North America playing 19 shows having released their debut album Invitation To Her’s last year, their label said.
The label said in a statement: “We are all heartbroken. Their energy, vibrancy and talent came to define our label. As humans, they were warm, gentle and hilarious. Each time they stopped by the office made for an uplifting experience.
“To say they were close would be an underestimation of a friendship that was genuinely beautiful to witness; they loved one another like brothers. Musically, Her’s were astonishing. An aptitude for melody, fun, and entertainment combined with a complexity that was as sophisticated as it was stylish.
“They were in America playing to thousands of adoring fans. Fans they made a point of meeting and spending time with, such was their passion and humbleness. The world was at their feet.”
The statement, signed by Mick Scholefield, Martin Colclough and Patrick Fogarty, said everyone at the label is “overwhelmed and distraught”.
It added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Stephen, Audun and Trevor, please respect their privacy at this extremely difficult time.”
Fitzpatrick was from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, according to his Facebook page, while Laading was originally from Kristiansand, Norway, his social media account said.
The group’s career was taking off and in August last year they were named as ones to watch by The Guardian.