This question is mostly for understanding the lifecycle and governance of open source projects. I wonder, if any large and well-known open source project has ever lost its leader / "benevolent dictator for life" (BDFL) due to any act of nature (e.g., death, serious illness). If so, how did the project and its community handle the loss?
My colleague at the Ballistic Research Laboratory, Mike Muuss, leader of the BRLCAD project (also well-known as the author of the "ping" network testing utility), was killed in an automobile accident. The BRLCAD project successfully continued as others picked up the reins.
"ping" continues in use as a standard tool on most platforms, but I'm not aware of a centralized "ping" project for maintaining it.