Weird History
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How Reba McEntire Narrowly Avoided The Tragedy That Took The Lives Of Her Entire Band

Updated August 10, 2021 128.3k views9 items

When celebrities have harrowing brushes with the grim reaper, it always captivates the public. However, the fatal plane crash that took the lives of seven members of Reba McEntire's band in 1991 was a tragedy that haunts the singer to this day. The story of how McEntire narrowly missed being on the flight is tragic and highlights how easy it is to lose everything in a single moment.

Reba McEntire is a country music singer who was at her most famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s, right when the event occurred. At the time, she was one of country music's top female artists, along with other powerhouses like Dolly Parton. The devastating event had a huge impact on McEntire's life, and led her to dedicate her next album to the members of the band she lost on that fateful day. She continued to pay tribute to them throughout her career.

  • Photo: I Know How He Feels / MCA

    Seven Members Of McEntire's Band Perished When Her Private Plane Went Down - But She Wasn't On It

    On March 15, 1991, McEntire and her band performed for IBM executives in San Diego. They were then scheduled to fly to Indiana late that night. McEntire chartered two private planes for her band members to fly on, but sadly, the aircraft carrying seven of her band members and her tour manager crashed almost immediately after taking off. Everyone on board lost their lives.

    The second plane, which carried two other band members, took off with no knowledge of the tragic event and was diverted to Nashville.

    McEntire, her husband, and her stylist were not aboard the planes because the singer was ill. She planned to remain in San Diego overnight and fly to Indiana one day after her band.

    • Photo: The Last One to Know / MCA

      A Case Of Bronchitis Might Have Saved McEntire's Life

      McEntire would've been on one of the two planes flying out of San Diego if she hadn't decided to stay an extra night.

      McEntire remained behind to recover from a case of bronchitis, wanting to rest before her next scheduled performance.

      • McEntire's Husband Was The First Person To Tell Her What Happened

        Video: YouTube

        McEntire's husband, Narvel Blackstock, and stylist, Sandy Spika, stayed behind with her in San Diego, avoiding the fatal flight. It was Blackstock who broke the news to McEntire at three in the morning. 

        McEntire later recounted the incident on an episode of Oprah's Master Class:

        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 have crashed, and I said, "Are they okay?" He said, "I don't think so." I said, "But you're not sure?" He said, "I don't think so."

        • The Plane Collided With A Mountain Moments After Take Off

           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           

          A post shared by Reba (@reba)

          McEntire's band departed on two planes, the first departing only three minutes before the second.

          After taking off from Brown Field just outside of San Diego, the plane was at an altitude of 3,330 feet. Its wingtip hit the 3,500-foot-tall Otay Mountain, causing the aircraft to somersault multiple times, scattering debris over a large area.

          The weather was apparently calm, with clear skies and low winds, according to a nearby airport.