Country legend Hank Williams Jr's daughter HILARY has recalled the moment she died after a near-fatal car accident in a heartbreaking new autobiography.
The singer-songwriter's memoirs, Sign of Life, opens with her account of the 2006 accident, which left her needing 23 surgeries.
The car she was driving slid off a freeway in Mississippi and when emergency medics first arrived on the scene, they felt sure no one could have survived the wreck.
In an excerpt from the book, printed on country music news website CMT.com, Williams recalls, "The EMTs pointed to me. They kneeled down next to me, asked me my name, and one nurse checked me from the toes up while the other checked me from the head down. I kept closing my eyes and as they worked... They kept saying, 'Hilary! Stay with us, now...'
"Every time I heard my name, I'd open my eyes and try to smile... I'd lost six pints of blood and, as I lay there, my blood pressure dropped to 55/0. I was between stage 2 and stage 3 of hypoglycemic shock. I was suddenly overcome by panic and the intense feeling that my chest was caving in and about to collapse. It was like being in a pool drowning.
"That's when I lost consciousness. Then, as the paramedics worked to bring me back, I came out of my body, softly and peacefully. Slowly, my spirit lifted, and soon it was as if I was hovering over the scene looking down on the cars and people below. The feeling of panic and all the pain I felt was gone. I was calm as I watched all the activity around the ambulance and the helicopters. I felt completely peaceful... the most joyful feeling I have ever known.
"An angel took my hand and I looked up and saw this amazing gold mansion that looked like it was trimmed with icing, like an enormous birthday cake. It was sparkling, gleaming, and glittering. I can't begin to describe the vibrant, kaleidoscope colors I saw. It was so crazy.
"Then I saw Merle Kilgore, my dad's best friend and manager who passed away the year before. Merle was a hilarious, happy-go-lucky guy who had lived an incredible life... he looked wonderful - not sickly like he did during the months before he died from lung cancer. Here he was right in front of me, smiling and slapping his leg.
"Then I saw Johnny and June Carter Cash, my dad's godparents. Johnny was playing the guitar and June was playing the harpsichord... It felt so good to see them; there was such an overwhelming feeling of love.
"While still trying to comprehend what was happening to me, I looked over and was stunned to see my grandparents, Hank and Audrey, slowly walking toward me. Both Hank and Audrey died before I was born (in Grandpa Hank's case, long before I was born). I'd never met them on earth but I recognised them right away. I knew them. They looked really young and beautiful...They walked up to me with big smiles on their faces, and one by one, they each gave me a long hug. I felt absolutely elated.
"Then, Hank put his arm around Audrey and they slowly turned and walked away. As I watched them go, I knew I wouldn't be going with them. Then, as quickly as it lifted, my spirit came back down and I returned to my body."