Twitter has long-established itself as the ‘go to’ place for breaking news, and this has never been so clearly demonstrated following the sad passing of music superstar Whitney Houston on Saturday.

The Associated Press was the first mainstream source to make the announcement about Houston’s death, sending out at tweet at 1657 PST. Amazingly, this was almost a whole hour after the news had first broke on Twitter, with a 1602 PST message from a single user starting a run of activity that saw 2.5 million Whitney Houston-related tweets sent over the next two hours.

Twitter has traced the first tweet about Houston’s death back to user @BarBeeBritt, who enquired “Is Whitney Houston really dead?” to her 799 followers at 1602 PST on February 11.

(Tweets may show in UTC, which is 8 hours ahead of PST.)

Twitter has demonstrated how the news about Houston’s death originated with @BarBeeBritt and quickly spread after the @AP tweet, via this chart.

(Note that Twitter makes a typo with @BarBeeBritt’s username, missing a ‘t’ – the username @BarBeeBrit does not exist.)

User @AjaDiorNavy was originally credited as the first person to write about Houston’s passing on Twitter, but this was some 13 minutes after @BarBeeBrit.

The @AP tweeted the news significantly later.

The story was quickly re-shared by celebrities, with rapper Lil Wayne seeing the most retweets (29,000), ahead of Justin Bieber (15,000), Nicki Minaj (9,000) and Katy Perry (8,000).

While it’s fair to say that @BarBeeBritt’s tweet didn’t make a huge impact on Twitter – it led to just 3 retweets, after all – the story does appear to have ‘started’ with her on the network.

However, what’s particularly interesting about this story is not only how early Twitter received word of Houston’s death, which was well ahead of official sources, but also who heard the news first, how they heard it and where. There’s every chance @BarBeeBritt’s tweet about Houston was not the first – after all, she had to have received the news from someone.

We’ve reached out for comment and will update accordingly.

(Top image credit: WhitneyHouston.com.)