Kenny Chesney took to social media this week to share an emotional goodbye to his friend Maria, a helicopter pilot who died in a crash in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on Monday, Feb. 15.
“Today I have to say a very hard goodbye to my friend Maria Rodriguez in the Virgin Islands,” the singer wrote on Monday. “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. I have been flying with Maria for over 15 years and we shared a lot of laughs and a lot of life together.”
Chesney shared various photos in the post, including pictures of the two of them standing in front of the helicopter, Rodriguez sitting in Chesney’s famed blue chair, a selfie of the two of them flying, and a photo of Rodriguez at the beach. He continued expressing his loss in the caption, writing that the islands will never be the same for him.
“She was always the first person I saw when I landed and the last person I said goodbye to when I would leave island,” he wrote. “I’m sure going to miss that. 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. So goodbye sweet friend. I’m sure glad our paths crossed on this side. See you on the other.”
According to the St. Thomas Source, the crash occurred at around 3pm on Monday and took the lives of Rodriguez and three others. The aircraft crashed in a heavily wooded area of the island and no cause has been announced.
Rodriguez was an esteemed pilot, who, according to Aviation International News, was awarded with the HAI Salute to Excellence Apparel Pilot of the Year Award in 2018 for flying support missions in the wake of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Rodriguez also had the honor of flying former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2017.