Kenny Chesney Mourns Friend Killed in Helicopter Crash
Kenny Chesney is grieving the loss of a friend of 15 years. A helicopter pilot named Maria Rodriguez was among those killed in a crash on the Virgin Islands, the singer says.
The crash on St. Thomas took multiple lives, including that of Rodriguez, a woman the country singer called a dear friend. "I have been flying with Maria for over 15 years and we shared a lot of laughs and a lot of life together," Chesney shares.
"She was always the first person I saw when I landed and the last person I said goodbye to when I would leave [the] island," he adds. "I’m sure going to miss that."
The St. Thomas Source reported a helicopter crash on Monday (Feb. 15), although the names of the four people killed in the incident were not shared. According to the publication, the crash happened at about 3PM local time, in a heavily wooded area, and there was a fire. However, nightfall and thick bush led officials to call off a search and the investigation for the night.
Rodriguez was a decorated helicopter pilot who once flew former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and who went to great lengths to assist after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Per Aviation International News, she received the 2018 HAI Salute to Excellence Apparel Pilot of the Year Award for her actions during these storms: Rodriguez left her shelter during the storm and rode a bike two hours to get to her hanger, from where she immediately began flying support missions.
As a photographer, Rodriguez was also able to document the damage the storms caused and post to social media, showing the stark reality of the storms.
"It’s fair to say I won’t ever be able to go to the Virgin Islands again without feeling the loss of her. She was such a huge part of my island life," Chesney writes before closing with, "So goodbye sweet friend. I’m sure glad our paths crossed on this side. See you on the other."
Chesney spends much of his time on the Virgin Islands and has often talked about his community in and around St. Thomas. The singer's 2018 album Songs for the Saints was largely inspired by Hurricane Irma, and proceeds from the project were donated to disaster relief efforts.
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