Reba McEntire knows what it is to endure sorrow and loss. In 1991, the country superstar lost seven of her band members and her tour manager, who died in a tragic plane crash after a concert.
The superstar and her band performed a private show in San Diego on March 16, 1991, and there were two planes waiting at Brown Field Municipal Airport to carry the band members to Fort Wayne, Ind., to perform the next concert on their schedule. The band members and tour manager flew on ahead while McEntire, her then-husband and manager Narvel Blackstock and her stylist, Sandi Spika, stayed overnight in San Diego.
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McEntire would tearfully recall what happened next in an emotional interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2012. The second plane took off and proceeded unencumbered to its destination, but the first aircraft to depart met with disaster just ten miles east of the airport.
“The tip of the wing of the airplane hit a rock on the side of Otay Mountain, and it killed everyone on the plane,” McEntire recounted to Winfrey. “When we were notified, Narvel went and met with our pilot, and he told us what had happened. 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, and I said, ‘Are they OK?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I said, ‘But you’re not sure?’ He said, ‘I don’t think so.'”
As McEntire recalled, they anxiously tried to get the details of the tragedy.
“Narvel was going room to room with a phone and calling …” she began, pausing as tears came to her eyes. “I’m sorry — it’s been 20 years, but it’s just like — I don’t guess it ever quits hurting,” she said. “But I can see that room. I can see Narvel walking back and forth.”
Friends including Vince Gill and Dolly Parton offered McEntire their own bands to complete her tour, but she chose not to. She dedicated her next album, For My Broken Heart, to the band members she had lost, and the project reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart, going on to sell four million copies.
McEntire usually honors the memory of those who died that day each year on the anniversary of the crash. In 2014 she turned to Instagram to mark the crash anniversary, and in 2016, on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, she took a special trip to San Diego and shared it with fans via social media.
“Today is the 25th anniversary of the airplane crash,” McEntire wrote. “I went back to San Diego Nov of last year and took a helicopter up to the crash site. I feel in my heart that they know we still miss them so much. My love and prayers to all the families and friends.”
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