Reba McEntire hit her stride in the mid-80s. By the time the 90s came, she had four chart-topping albums under her belt and was well on the way to being the country icon she is today. Then, in 1991, a tragedy took several of her friends, rocked her world, and changed her outlook on life forever.
On this day in 1991, seven members of Reba McEntire’s band, her tour manager, and the pilot and co-pilot died in a tragic plane crash in California.
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The Tragedy that Took 8 Friends from Reba McEntire
Reba and her band performed a private show for IBM executives on March 15, 1991, in San Diego, California. That night, McEntire chartered two planes to take her band and tour manager to Fort Wayne, Indiana, the next stop on their tour. McEntire, her then-husband Narvel Blackstock, and her stylist Sandy Spika stayed behind. Reba was recovering from bronchitis and wanted a day to rest before flying out.
In the early hours of March 16th, Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock got the bad news via phone.
The two planes took off from San Diego’s Brown Field about three minutes apart, according to the Los Angeles Times. Moments after taking off, the first plane struck Otay Mountain and crashed. Chris Austin, Kirk Capello, Joey Cigainero, Paula Kayr Evans, Jim Hammon, Terry Jackson, Anthony Saputo, and Michael Thomas lost their lives in the tragic crash. Additionally, pilot Captain Donald Holms and co-pilot Captain Chris Hollinger died in the crash.
Reba Reflects on the Tragic Crash
Last year, Reba McEntire sat down with People to reflect on the tragedy. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue,” she admitted. “But it showed me how precious life is, and by the grace of God and by faith, I realized that they went to a better place.”
“From that, I learned that you need to take it one day at a time and be very grateful for the things that you have,” Reba continued. “Tell folks in your life how much you love and appreciate them.”
Reba McEntire channeled her grief into For My Broken Heart, which dropped in October of 1991. She dedicated that album to her fallen band members.
Reba McEntire Pays Tribute to Her Band Members Annually
That would be far from the last time that Reba McEntire paid tribute to the friends and band members she lost that night. Every year, she takes to social media on the anniversary of the tragedy to say a few heartfelt words.
Today, Reba McEntire posted a vintage video of her and her late band members performing “Let the Music Lift You Up.” Before the throwback performance begins, the video starts with a simple but impactful message on a plain black screen.
“I’d like to dedicate this show to Jim Hammon, Kirk Cappello, Michael Thomas, Tony Saputo, Paula Kaye Evans, Terry Jackson, Joey Cigainero, and Chris Austin,” the message reads. “They were eight leading professionals in the music industry. But most of all, they were my friends. Their love for music and the stage gives us all the strength to go on.”
In the post’s caption, Reba McEntire wrote, “Remembering my friends we lost 32 years ago today.”