Kenny Chesney Mourns Death of Dear Friend in Helicopter Crash

by Jennifer Shea

Country star Kenny Chesney is dealing with a difficult loss. His friend Maria Rodriguez died Monday in a helicopter crash on the island of St. Thomas. 

Kenny Chesney Mourns His Dear Friend

Chesney shared a little bit about what Rodriguez has meant to him in an Instagram post.

“Today I have to say a very hard goodbye to my friend Maria Rodriguez in the Virgin Islands,” Chesney posted. “Maria and others were killed today in a helicopter crash in St. Thomas. She was a dear friend to me and to our island community. I have been flying with Maria for over 15 years and we shared a lot of laughs and a lot of life together.” 

“She was always the first person I saw when I landed and the last person I said goodbye to when I would leave [the] island,” Chesney added. “I’m sure going to miss that. It’s fair to say I won’t ever be able to go to the Virgin Islands again without feeling the loss of her. She was such a huge part of my island life. So goodbye sweet friend. I’m sure glad our paths crossed on this side. See you on the other.”

The crash took place on St. Thomas, near Botany Bay, the Virgin Islands Daily News reported. 

Witnesses saw the helicopter crash on land – specifically, in the bush. They reported seeing black smoke wafting up out of the forest and smelling a chemical odor.

St. Thomas Rescue and the Virgin Islands Police Department and Fire Service then rushed to the scene in the wake of the crash.

Giving Back to the Islands

Over the years, Chesney has spent plenty of time in the Virgin Islands, where he has a vacation home. It’s also the same home where he and ex-wife actress Renee Zellweger got married, according to ET Canada.

In 2017, Chesney’s house on the island of St. John was decimated by Hurricane Irma. But Chesney’s first concern was not his own property. In the wake of the incredibly destructive hurricane, his instinct was to give back to the Virgin Islands.

“I’ve spent the majority of my adult life walking those beaches and hanging out in those bars and writing songs,” Chesney, 50, later told the Associated Press from his manager’s office in Nashville, Tennessee. “All of a sudden, it was a place that was very beautiful and that was very broken.”

The Category 5 hurricane destroyed electrical power and cell phone service on the islands for weeks to months, tore up roads, airports and hospitals and upended boats and local businesses.

Chesney immediately began writing a new album, which he titled Songs for the Saints. He then decided that it would be a charity record to benefit victims of the hurricane. 

And then he set up a foundation called Love for Love City, also the title of a song off his new album. The foundation helped cart in medical supplies, remove debris and rescue pets.

Chesney also bought new musical instruments for the St. John School of the Arts. 

“You never know what one of those guitars will do,” Chesney said. “I know what one guitar did for me.”