On March 16th, 2011, Reba will be taking time out to remember the friends she lost 20 years ago, posting a special tribute landing page.
It was on March 16th in 1991, that a jet, containing seven of Reba’s band members and road manager, as well as the pilot and co-pilot, crashed into Otay Mountain, near San Diego, CA, killing all 10 people on board. “By far this is my darkest hour, the most awful thing that ever happened in my life,” she told People just days after the accident. “When you have eight people that you absolutely love and their lives are just wiped out — it’s devastating.” [More HERE from PEOPLE]
The twin-engine Hawker Siddeley took off about 1:45 am from Brown Field, a municipal airstrip in southern San Diego and crashed a few minutes later, according to articles about the accident. Only four hours before, guitarist Chris Austin, 27, backup singer Paula Kaye Evans, 33, bassist Terry Jack-son, 28, bandleader Kirk Cappello, 28, guitarist Michael Thomas, 34, drummer Tony Saputo, 34, and keyboardist Joey Cigainero, 27, had performed a 75-minute set with Reba at a convention for IBM at San Diego’s Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel. Among their last songs to perform was one of Reba’s favorites, Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams,” which she vowed never to perform again.
The next night, they were booked for a show in Fort Wayne, Ind. Reba skipped the flight after her husband and manager, Narvel Blackstock, urged her to stay behind and get a good night‟s sleep as she was recovering from a case of bronchitis. They planned to fly to Fort Wayne the next day. Band members Joe McGlohon and Pete Finney took off from Brown Field in a different plane, just minutes behind the other jet. Around 2:30am, the phone rang in their hotel room while they were sound asleep, and their pilot asked Narvel to come to his room, where he informed him of the tragic news. The most difficult time in both Reba and Narvel’s lives was about to follow – informing the families that their loved ones weren’t making it back home. “The hardest hours was listening to Narvel having to make the phone calls. That was the worst part,” Reba recently told American Country Countdown With Kix Brooks. (Of note, Reba’s stylist at the time, Sandi Spika, also assisted in making calls to family. Sandi was scheduled to be on the plane that evening, but chose to stay behind.) Reba continues: “I was so numb, I would follow Narvel from room to room, and he finally looked around at me, and said, “You’ve got to stop following me!” He said, “I’ve got to hold it together to tell these people what happened.‟ He said, “You can’t follow me crying like this.‟ I needed him to, but he couldn’t, he had to console and to tell these other people. About all I could do, I called momma and daddy to let ’em know…and then I called Barbara Mandrell because Kirk Cappello had worked for her before me, and I wanted her to hear it from me, because Narvel was calling everybody else. That by far was the hardest night of my life, and the rest to come with the memorial service and then after that, realizing that they weren’t going to be there when I turned around on stage.”
Reba canceled all appearances through April, except for her performance on that years Academy Awards, which was just nine days after the devastating crash. At first, the country songstress wanted to cancel everything until July of that year, but Debbie Hammon, Jim’s wife, talked her into going back to work, if not for herself, for her fans and her lost loved ones. She performed the Oscar-nominated, Shel Silverstein-penned “I’m Checkin’ Out,” the song Meryl Streep sang at the end of the film, Postcards From the Edge. “I know in my heart they did go to a better place, and they told me at my vanity…one morning — I was supposed to do the Oscars, and I was supposed to sing “Heartbreak Hotel,”Postcards From the Edge” I’m Checking Out (of this Heartbreak Hotel)‟ — and I sat at my vanity, and I had to give an answer that afternoon,” Reba continues. “And it just came to me, and there was Jim and all the guys and Paula Kaye saying, “Go do it for us — I’m checking out of this Heartbreak Hotel.‟”
Reba’s next album, For My Broken Heart, was a collection of songs of heartbreak, loneliness and pain, which she dedicated to her lost loved ones.