Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the day that seven of country artist Reba McEntire’s bandmates tragically died in a plane crash.
On March 16, 1991, seven members of Reba McEntire’s band, along with the pilot and tour manager, died in a plane crash. The aircraft went down near San Diego, California, and was coming from a small private show that the band appeared in just a few hours prior.
According to the Boot, Reba McEntire and the band played the night of March 15 for some IBM executives. On March 16, the band had to be in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for another show they had scheduled.
Fortunately, a few members stay behind another day, including Reba McEntire. Others that decided to wait another day before traveling were Reba’s husband at the time and stylist, Sandy Spika.
Reba and Narvel Blackstock were married from 1989 until they split in 2015.
The country artist was not feeling well enough to travel the night of March 15 due to a case of bronchitis.
The Unfortunate Crash
One of two jets Reba McEntire’s team chartered unfortunately crashed along the flight.
At around 1:45 a.m., the first plane to take off, a Hawker Siddele, flew into the side of Otay Mountain in San Diego.
The victims of the crash include Chris Austin, Kirk Cappello, Joey Cigainero, Paula Kay Evans, Jim Hammon, Terry Jackson, Anthony Saputo, and Michael Thomas. Both the pilot, Captain Donald Holms, and co-pilot Captain Chris Hollinger also perished in the crash.
The second plane, unaware of the tragedy that had occurred shortly after takeoff, also flew into the night only minutes behind the first Hawker Siddele. Onboard, two more members of Reba McEntire’s band wait for landing in Indiana.
However, the plane was informed that it should land in Nashville.
“The planes took off three minutes apart. The plane that crashed took off first,” Trisha McClanahan, a spokesperson for McEntire, said to the Los Angeles Times. “The pilot of the second plane didn’t see anything. They just knew that they had lost radio contact with the other. They continued flying and were diverted to Nashville.”
It wasn’t until the next morning that Reba McEntire, Sandy Spika, and Narvel Blackstock were informed of the unfortunate crash. They quickly caught their own flight to Nashville.
“When we were notified, Narvel went and met with our pilot, and he told us what had happened,” McEntire emotionally said. “And Narvel came back to the hotel room where I was. It was two or three o’clock in the morning and he said one of the planes had crashed. I said, ‘Are they okay?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I said, ‘But you’re not sure?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so.'”
Reba McEntire Honors Band Members
In addition to a tribute album, Reba released in October of 1991, titled For My Broken Heart, she opened up about the loss in her autobiography in 1994.
“Those of us — family members, colleagues, friends — who lost people in the crash will be marked by it forever.”
Reba McEntire also reveals that country singer Vince Gill offered her support in the aftermath. Gill offered up his services on stage, saying, “If you want me to, I’ll be on your stage. I’ll be there for you.”