Reba McEntire Remembers the Plane Crash That Killed Her Bandmates


Reba McEntire has been country music royalty for decades now. Her songs have resonated with multiple generations, and she has traveled around the country spreading those beautiful tunes from one coast to another. However, during one such trip, the world came perilously close to losing one of its most inspiring voices.

Over 32 years ago, a plane crashed that was transporting most of Reba McEntire’s band. It was only by a quirk of fate that the singer’s life was spared. Now, decades later, the incident continues to haunt her.

What happened to this plane? Why wasn’t McEntire onboard, and how did this crash end up shaping her life? Keep reading to discover the answers!

Reba McEntire’s meteoric career

Remember when we said that Reba McEntire was country music royalty? One sign of this is that even though the plane crash took place so long ago, the singer was already a well-established lyrical legend by then. In fact, since making her debut in the 1970s, McEntire had created 15 successful albums before the fateful crash.

Obviously, McEntire continued to have a career after the plane crashed, but it’s fair to say that her world would never be the same. That’s because her band was on that plane, and McEntire had the gruesome task of recruiting new talent so that she could continue traveling around the country performing her hit songs.

The plane crash that killed her band

The plane crash that claimed the lives of Reba McEntire’s band occurred on March 16, 1991. That plane was headed from San Diego to Indiana, but it would never reach its final destination. 

The cause of the crash was nearly as unexpected as the crash itself. The plane traveled a bit too close to Otay Mountain, and that caused the tip of its wing to get damaged by a rock. The subsequent permanent damage to the wing caused the plane to crash, killing everyone who was onboard. Obviously, McEntire herself wasn’t on board, but it turns out that she was saved by a bout of unexpected sickness!

Why wasn’t Reba McEntire on the plane?

The plane carrying Reba McEntire’s bandmates from San Diego to Indiana was intended to get everyone to the next leg of their musical tour. Why, then, was McEntire not on board the plane that claimed the lives of her band? It all comes down to the singer getting unexpectedly sick ahead of their departure.

McEntire was suffering from bronchitis at the time. This illness is annoying for just about everyone, but it’s particularly vexing for singers because it can keep them from doing what they do best. Accordingly, McEntire hung back at the San Diego hotel to attend to her illness. Her husband and her stylist also stayed behind, meaning that all of their lives were spared simply because McEntire got sick!

The singer lost more than colleagues that day

It’s important to remember the names of those who were lost in that plane crash. In addition to tour manager Jim Hammon, the plane was filled with musical professionals including Chris Austin, Kirk Capello, Joey Cigainero, Pala Kaye Evans, Tony Saputo, and Michael Thomas. Just as we are grateful that Reba McEntire survived, we can’t help but wonder what the modern musical world would be like if they had lived.

As for McEntire, she remembers the grim anniversary of this crash every year. And as she clarified on Instagram, the world may see the deceased as “eight leading professionals in the music industry.” However, she will always remember them very differently: “Most of all, they were my friends.”

Opening up about the incident with Oprah

Most of what we know about Reba McEntire’s thoughts regarding the crash come from an interview she gave to Oprah Winfrey back in 2012. She recalls that her husband came back to their hotel room somewhere between 2:00 am and 3:00 am and told her that one of their planes had crashed. McEntire was immediately consumed with one question: was everyone okay?

Her husband didn’t think they were but admitted he was unsure. This caused McEntire to wait by the phone the rest of the night in hopes she would get a call verifying everyone had survived. Sadly, that call never came, and McEntire was forced to suddenly grieve some of those who were closest to her. 

How Reba McEntire went on to honor the band

In addition to remembering the plane crash every year, Reba McEntire went on to honor the deceased bandmates in some very touching ways. For example, about a month and a half after the crash, she received the ACM Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. While accepting the award, she tearfully paid her respects to everyone who had died.

The deceased were still very much on McEntire’s mind when she was recording her sixteenth album, For My Broken Heart. She dedicated that album to the deceased in hopes that others will continue to remember them; as for McEntire, she is certain to never forget.

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