The true story of Travis Barker’s tragic plane crash

Travis Barker rose to fame as the drummer for the popular punk rock band Blink-182, which resembled groups like Weezer and Green Day. When Blink-182 split in 2005, the musician starred alongside his then-wife Shanna Moakler on a short-lived reality show. These days, however, he’s best known for his high-profile relationship with Kourtney Kardashian. In May, Barker and Kardashian wed in a lavish Italian ceremony along with their children – Mason, Penelope and Reign Disick, with ex Scott Disick – as well as Barker’s children from a previous relationship.

On the surface, things seem to be all roses and champagne for the Blink-182 frontman, but he’s weathered his fair share of difficult moments. In his 2015 memoir Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums, Barker recounted losing his mother when he was just a freshman in high school. “From the moment after my mom died, I really followed the last words she said to me. ‘Play the drums and don’t care about anything in life other than doing the things you love.’ I almost felt like she was orchestrating things upstairs,” Barker wrote (via Vice). The musician also admitted to excessive drug use, telling Billboard that one of his “deepest” moments came in 2004, when he was “so addicted to oxycodone” that his security forces watched him at night to make sure he was still breathing.

However, it’s the story of Barker’s plane crash that really shaped his adult life.

Travis Barker and DJ AM sustained serious injuries

In 2008, Travis Barker was involved in a tragic plane crash when his plane “slid off the runway and burst into flames after hitting an embankment,” according to Today. An investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board later found that the plane’s tires blew out on takeoff, causing the pilot to abort the flight at high speed. For Barker, who already had an existing fear of airplanes, it was his worst nightmare. In a 2015 interview with Larry King Now, he told the host how the “plane went out of control,” hit the ground, and burst into flames. Barker’s assistant, his security guard and both pilots on board were killed in the crash, leaving Barker and his friend DJ AM to flee for their lives.

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At the “Joe Rogan Experience” in 2019, Barker explained how he and DJ AM opened the plane’s emergency door to escape, but not without devastating consequences. “When I jumped through the emergency exit… I was in such a hurry to exit the plane that I jumped straight onto the jet, which is full of fuel. My whole body lit up. I had jet fuel all over my body,” he said. Barker and DJ AM were the only survivors and both suffered second- and third-degree burns, according to CBS News. Barker subsequently struggled with PTSD and survivor guilt. His feelings were further complicated when he learned DJ AM died of a drug overdose a year later, according to ABC News.

Travis Barker learned to face his fears

Despite the tragedy of the plane crash, the story has a silver lining. Almost dying gave Travis Barker a new life, one that motivated a decision to become his best self by giving up prescription drugs. “People always say, ‘Have you been in rehab?’ And me [say], ‘No, I was in a plane crash.’ That was my rehab. Lose three of your friends and almost die? That was my wake up call. If I hadn’t been involved in a fall, I probably never would have stopped,” the drummer revealed in a May 2021 interview with Men’s Health. He’s also now deeply committed to a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular running, strength training, and meditation work .

But with the specter of the crash still lingering, Barker knew he had to get back on a plane, if only to prove to his kids he could face his fears. “I tell my kids, ‘If you’re ready to fly, I’m ready to fly,'” he told ABC News in 2015. “I don’t want it to be a handicap for them,” he added.

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Although the musician hasn’t boarded a plane since the crash, his relationship with Kourtney Kardashian was the catalyst. “With you anything is possible,” Barker captioned a 2021 Instagram photo that showed him hugging Kardashian in front of a private jet. He’s also said his wife makes him feel “invincible,” so it seems like true love really does conquer all.