Jet Carrying Reba McEntire’s Band Crashes; 10 Killed With BC-Musicians Crash-List
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) _ Seven members of country-western singer Reba McEntire’s band and her road manager were among 10 people killed when a private jet crashed Saturday just north of the Mexican border.
There were no survivors, said Elly Brekke, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Miss McEntire, who had given a concert for IBM employees Friday night in San Diego, was not on the jet, said spokeswoman Jenny Bohler.
″Needless to say Reba is very upset. They all had been with her a long time. They were like family. She’s lost eight family members,″ Ms. Bohler said.
The Hawker Siddeley twin-engine jet crashed at 1:45 a.m. in rugged canyon country about 25 miles southeast of downtown San Diego. The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating, Ms. Brekke said.
The plane, bound for Amarillo, Texas, had just taken off from Brown Field, a city airstrip one-half mile north of the Mexican border.
Personnel at the Navy’s North Island Naval Air Station, about 15 miles from where the plane crashed, reported seeing a fireball as the craft went down near the peak of 5,200-foot high Otay Mountain. It appeared the plane’s wing clipped the side of the mountain, cartwheeled across the mountainside and exploded, said a safety board official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The jet was owned by Duncan Aircraft Sales Inc. of Venice, Fla., said Jeff Rich, a safety board investigator. The pilot and co-pilot worked for Duncan Aircraft, Rich said.
Learning exactly what happened could be difficult because the craft had no flight data recorder, Rich said. Beginning in September, FAA regulations will require turbine-powered jets like the Hawker Siddeley to carry such recorders, he said.
Ms. Bohler said the 10 people aboard included Miss McEntire’s tour manager, Jim Hammon, 40; band leader and keyboardist Kirk Cappello, 28; vocalist Paula Kaye Evans, 33; guitarists Michael Thomas, 34, and Terry Jackson, 28; keyboardist Joey Cigainero, 27; drummer Tony Saputo, 34; and Chris Austin, 27, a vocalist who played fiddle and acoustic guitar.
All the band members lived in Nashville, Tenn., Ms. Bohler said.
″This will be felt by so many country artists who routinely travel the concert tour by private jet,″ said Jo Walker-Meador, executive director of the Country Music Association.
Miss McEntire, had checked out of a San Diego hotel early Saturday and was on her way to Nashville, Ms. Bohler said.
″Her main concern is the families of the band,″ Ms. Bohler said. ″That’s all she can think about right now.″
Two other band members and several members of Miss McEntire’s road crew had left San Diego for Fort Wayne on another flight before the crash, Ms. Bohler said.
Also killed in the crash were pilot Don Holms and co-pilot Chris Hollinger, 22, said a statement by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
The pilot was filing an amended flight plan over the radio with air traffic controllers at a radar control center near Brown Field when they lost contact, Rich said. The Brown Field tower was closed, he said.
″When the controller finished typing in the information and looked back down, the plane was gone from his screen,″ he said.
The pilot had originally requested clearance for an earlier takeoff, Rich said. ″For some reason they didn’t depart as they were scheduled to at midnight,″ Rich said. ″But about 1:50 a.m. they sought re-clearance for an instrument departure.″
Darkness, wet conditions and difficult terrain prevented sheriff’s deputies from reaching the site until daybreak.
The crash and fire blackened shrub and grass, and wreckage was strewn about a hillside, said sheriff’s Sgt. Don Fowler.
Rain had fallen Friday night but had stopped before the plane took off, Ms. Brekke said.
″The weather at Brown Field was clear, with about 10 miles visibility,″ she said. ″We don’t know what it was at the higher elevations.″
Concerts Saturday night in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Sunday in Evansville, Ind., were canceled, Ms. Bohler said.
Ms. Bohler said she didn’t know why the plane was headed for Amarillo. ″It could have been routed that way or headed there for refueling and then go on to Indiana.″
Michael Farley, a Brown Airport operations assistant, speculated the pilots used Brown to avoid an 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. curfew at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.
Miss McEntire, 35, is the only singer ever voted female vocalist of the year four times by the Country Music Association.
Her album ″Greatest Hits″ went platinum, selling more than a million copies. She won a Grammy in 1987 for the album, ″Whoever’s in New England.″
Her other hit records include ″Little Rock,″ ″Walk On″ and ″Rumor Has It.″