On August 2, 1979 Munson died in a plane crash. He was practicing takeoffs and landings in his new twin engine Cessna Citation jet at the Akron-Canton airport. Something went wrong causing the jet to clip a tree and fall short of the runway on a landing attempt. The plane then burst into flames killing Munson who was trapped inside and injuring two other companions. His sudden death stunned the nation and especially sorrowed the baseball community. Munson's wife, Diana and three children survived him. The entire Yankee team attended his funeral in Canton, Ohio. Lou Pinella and Bobby Murcer, who were Munson's best friends as well as teammates, gave moving eulogies. That night the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 in New York with Bobby Murcer driving in all 5 runs.
Although Munson has not yet been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame he is a likely candidate in the future. The Yankees have retired his No. 15 uniform and have placed a memorial plaque on the centerfield wall at Yankee Stadium. To this day, despite a packed clubhouse, Thurman Munson's locker remains empty as a subtle tribute to such a great player. His number 15 is displayed on the center field wall at Munson Stadium. Munson is buried at Sunset Hills Burial Park in Canton, Ohio.
He was a graduate of Canton Lehman High School.