On This Day: Johnny Cash Gives Speech at Service for Reba McEntire’s Band Members Killed in Plane Crash

by Halle Ames
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On March 16, 1991, Reba McEntire lost seven band members in a plane crash. Four days later, Johnny Cash gave a speech at the memorial.

On this day, thirty years ago, country music legend Johnny Cash gave the eulogy for Reba McEntire’s seven bandmates that unfortunately died in a plane crash.

The victims of the crash include Chris Austin, 27, Kirk Cappello, 28, Joey Cigainero, 27, Paula Kay Evans, 33, Jim Hammon, 40, Terry Jackson, 28, Anthony Saputo, 34, and Michael Thomas, 34. Both the pilot, Captain Donald Holms, and co-pilot Captain Chris Hollinger also perished in the crash.

The funeral had a massive turnout, with over 800 mourners paying their respects, reported the AP.

Reba McEntire, heartbroken about the loss of co-workers and close friends, held an hour-long church service. While she did not participate in the memorial service, she sat among the over 100 family members of the victims.

Johnny Cash’s Eulogy

Johnny Cash, appropriately dressed in his trademark black, paid tribute to the victims.

″Every one of these worked with the top name doing the thing they loved and performing for more people than they ever imagined,” said Cash. “What could be more fulfilling? They achieved their dream.”

Other notable names that attended the service besides Reba McEntire and Johnny Cash included the Judds, Ricky Skaggs, Larry Gatlin, Vince Gill, Lee Greenwood, Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, Skeeter Davis, and Billy Walker. Additionally, Gov. Ned McWherter was also in attendance and sat with McEntire and the families of the victims.

Naomi Judd commented on all the support she had seen after the plane crash. She said the country music community gave her a reassuring sense of hope.

″The greatest thing about country music is it offers a sense of community – just like the church.″

Rev. L.H. Hardwick Jr., the senior pastor at Christ Church, a Pentecostal church, offered the families some peace. He explained how Jesus was with them, even during the crash.

″Jesus is with his people when they die,″ the pastor said. ″He was with them in that plane. That plane crash on that hillside was a door to a greater life. Death is not the end. It’s the beginning of a new adventure.″

The Crash the Killed Reba McEntire Bandmates

The aircraft went down near San Diego, California, and was coming from a private show that the band appeared in just a few hours prior. It was on its way to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for another performance they had scheduled for the next day.

The small plane didn’t make it very far into the flight before crashing into the side of the Otay Mountain in San Diego.

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