Steve Appleton, CEO of Micron Technology (Nasdaq: MU), has passed away at the age of 51. Not in a long bedside vigil, like fellow technology icon Steve Jobs of Apple, but in a dramatic and unfortunate accident.

The memory-chip magnate perished as the small aircraft he piloted crashed between two runways at the Boise, Idaho, airport. According to airport officials, it was a single-engine Lancair plane -- the kind you can buy as a kit and build yourself. Local news station KTVB recounts an air traffic control conversation where Appleton felt something was wrong and requested an emergency landing. He was the only person on board.

Shares of Micron were halted at 1:33PM Eastern, well before news reports of the crash were published. I expect share prices to plunge when trading resumes, as Appleton's risk-seeking drive has been a large part of Micron's success.

Steve Appleton had always been a daredevil, in business and in life. His hobbies included off-road car racing, skydiving, and even flying fighter jets. "I don't know what could be worse than being in the memory business for risk-taking," he once said. "If we were in some stable, monopolistic business, I'd probably get objections from my executive staff about [risking my life on personal hobbies], but they're all dying to go."

Now Micron must figure out how to operate without its visionary leader, and we investors have to consider if the company is worth owning without him. Answers will not be easy to come by, but we always knew that this day might come.

Rest in peace, Steve.