Kenny Chesney is grieving over the loss of his dear friend and helicopter pilot, Maria Rodriguez, who died in a helicopter crash on the Virgin Islands.
Though the cause of the fatal crash has not yet been revealed and little details have been released, the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency confirmed the incident, saying that it happened at around three in the afternoon, February 15, 2021. They were also able to find the crash site in Botany Bay’s “heavily wooded area.”
In addition to Rodriguez, the tragic accident took the lives of three other people who were not yet named. A news site said they’re a family of three going on a sightseeing trip. Authorities have also not officially identified Rodriguez yet.
The country superstar has been friends with Rodriguez for fifteen years, and they’ve “shared a lot of laughs and a lot of life together.” Kenny Chesney turned to social media to pay tribute to Rodriguez, expressing that it was such a tough goodbye.
Today I have to say a very hard goodbye to my friend Maria Rodriguez in the Virgin Islands. Maria & others were killed today in a helicopter crash in St. Thomas. Goodbye sweet friend. I’m sure glad our paths crossed on this side. See you on the other. pic.twitter.com/eNTQ7fLJVE— Kenny Chesney (@kennychesney) February 16, 2021
“She was a dear friend to me and to our island community,” he wrote along with a string of photos. “She was always the first person I saw when I landed and the last person I said goodbye to when I would leave island. I’m sure going to miss that.”
Chesney has been a regular visitor and homeowner of the Virgin Islands, frequently talking about his circle around St. Thomas. In fact, the island has heavily influenced his music. Hurricane Irma, for instance, inspired his 2018 album Songs for the Saints, and the project’s proceeds were given to help disaster relief efforts.
The singer admits that he will never be able to revisit the Virgin Islands without thinking about Rodriguez’s untimely death – after all, she’s been a big part of his island life.
Rodriguez, on the other hand, was a decorated helicopter pilot. She was credited for her efforts during Hurricane Irma and Maria and once flew then-President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama. In 2018, she received the Appareo Pilot of the Year, an award presented by Helicopter Association International to recognize the pilot’s remarkable professionalism.
Rodriguez also owned helicopter companies Caribbean Buzz and Caribbean Buzz Management – which offers “helicopter services throughout the Caribbean and yacht support around the world.”