Kenny Chesney said a “very hard goodbye” to his friend Maria Rodriguez Monday (Feb. 15) after she and three others died in a helicopter crash in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Chesney remembered her Monday night by posting pictures of them flying together, which he said they’ve been doing together for more than 15 years. He also shared solo shots of her frolicking on the beach and sitting upside down on his signature “Old Blue” wicker chair, which is featured on his 2005 album Be as You Are (Songs From an Old Blue Chair).
“Today I have to say a very hard goodbye to my friend Maria Rodriguez in the Virgin Islands. Maria and others were killed today in a helicopter crash in St. Thomas. She was a dear friend to me and to our island community,” the country singer wrote. “I have been flying with Maria for over 15 years and we shared a lot of laughs and a lot of life together. 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.”
ABC News reported that four people died during a helicopter crash at the St. Thomas area of Botany Bay around 3 p.m., but did not reveal the identity of the victims nor the cause of the accident. Rodriguez was an award-winning helicopter pilot who flew former U.S. president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in 2017, and organized support missions during both Hurricane Irma and Maria, according to Aviation News.
“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 continued writing. “So goodbye sweet friend. I’m sure glad our paths crossed on this side. See you on the other.”
The 52-year-old superstar’s love of the islands has inspired his music over the last two decades, especially the album artwork for 2002 project No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems and his 2003 holiday LP All I Want For Christmas Is a Real Good Tan. Be as You Are (Songs From an Old Blue Chair) features songs that recall a lot of his fondest memories from island life.
The Here and Now artist owned a house in St. John for years, where he invited close to 20 friends and their pets to seek refuge while Hurricane Irma ravaged through the Caribbean in September 2017. The Category 5 storm later decimated his property, but all of his friends survived. Chesney created the Love for Love City foundation to provide relief for St. John and the rest of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and donated 100% of the proceeds from his 18th studio album Songs for the Saints.
See Chesney’s touching tribute to Rodriguez below.
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