Reba McEntire may be a country superstar without parallel, but her career in Nashville was almost cut short by a devastating tragedy 31 years ago.
In a new interview with People, McEntire reflected on the March 1991 plane crash that killed eight members of her band following a performance in San Diego, California. The three-time Grammy winner told the publication that she considered quitting the music industry for good after hearing the news that day.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue,” she explained. “But it showed me how precious life is, and by the grace of God and my faith, I realized that they went on to a better place.”
On the night of the accident, McEntire had elected to stay behind in California with her then-husband Narvel Blackstock to recover from a case of bronchitis, according to the Los Angeles Times. The rest of the singer’s crew, however, departed for Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they were slated to perform the following day.
Musicians Chris Austin, Kirk Cappello, Joey Cigainero, Paula Evans, Terry Jackson, Anthony Saputo, Michael Thomas and tour manager Jim Hammon were killed after the plane crashed into Otay Mountain, which is situated on the U.S.-Mexico border about 33 miles southeast of downtown San Diego. Pilot Donald Holms and co-pilot Chris Hollinger also died in the crash.
True to form, McEntire channeled her grief into music. That fall, she dedicated her 18th studio album, “For My Broken Heart,” to the band members she’d lost in the tragedy. She also credited fellow musician Kenny Rogers, who died in 2020, with having “saved my sanity” when he asked her to star alongside him in his 1991 movie “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.”
Elsewhere in her People interview, McEntire said she “never blamed God” for her loss, but noted that she does “have questions when I get up there.”
“From that I learned that you need to take it one day at a time and be very grateful for the things that you have,” she continued. “Tell folks in your life how much you love and appreciate them.”