Reba McEntire understands what it’s like to endure sorrow and loss. In 1991, the country superstar lost seven members of her band and her tour manager in an aircraft crash during a concert.
On March 16, 1991, the celebrity and her band performed at a private event in San Diego. Two planes were ready at Brown Field Municipal Airport to transport the band members to Fort Wayne, Ind., for the next gig on their itinerary.
The band members and tour manager flew ahead, leaving McEntire, her then-husband and manager Narvel Blackstock, and her stylist Sandi Spika in San Diego for the night.
In a sad interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2012, McEntire recalled what happened next. The second plane took off and arrived at its destination unharmed, but the first jet to leave crashed barely 10 miles east of the airport.
“The tip of the plane’s wing hit a boulder on the edge of Otay Mountain, and it killed everyone on board,” McEntire told Oprah. “When we were notified, Narvel went to our pilot and told him what had happened.”
“When Narvel returned to the hotel room where I was — two or three a.m. — and said one of the planes had crashed, I asked, ‘Are they OK?’ ‘I don’t think so,’ he responded. ‘But you’re not sure?’ I asked. ‘I don’t think so,’ he replied.”
According to McEntire, they were anxious to learn the specifics of the catastrophe.
“Narvel was going room to room with a phone, ringing…” she said, pausing as tears rose. “I’m sorry – it’s been 20 years, but I don’t think it ever stops hurting,” she added. “But, I can see that chamber. Narvel is pacing back and forth.”
Friends like Vince Gill and Dolly Parton offered McEntire their bands to finish the tour, but she declined. For My Broken Heart, her next album was dedicated to the band members she had lost, and it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, selling four million copies.
On the anniversary of the tragedy, McEntire regularly pays tribute to those who died that day. She used Instagram to commemorate the crash anniversary in 2014. On the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in 2016, she took a memorable trip to San Diego and shared it with admirers on social media.
McEntire wrote, “Today is the 25th anniversary of the plane accident.” “In November last year, I returned to San Diego and took a helicopter to the accident site. I have a feeling they realize how much we miss them. My heartfelt condolences and prayers go out to all the families and friends.”