Reba McEntire Says Late Kenny Rogers 'Saved My Sanity' After Her Band's 1991 Fatal Plane Crash

"He's such a special person and a big-hearted giver," the singer said of Kenny Rogers, who died in March at age 81

Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night XX - Inside
Reba McEntire and Kenny Rogers in April 2014. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty

Reba McEntire misses late friend Kenny Rogers.

In a new interview with Taste of Country, the music legend, 65, opened up about her devastation in the wake of the fatal 1991 plane crash that killed eight members of her band, recalling that Rogers lifted her spirits at the time. That year, McEntire starred opposite Rogers in the TV movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw.

"Kenny saved my sanity in '91 when he asked me to come do the Gambler movie," she told the outlet. "I was still in a state of disbelief and not knowing what I'm gonna do moving forward after the plane crash."

Rogers died in March at age 81 of natural causes. "I miss him so much," McEntire said. "He's such a special person and a big-hearted giver."

In March 1991, a jet crashed into a mountain near the United States–Mexico border killing all 10 people aboard the flight, including eight of McEntire's band members. "She was very close to all of them. Some of them had been with her for years," a rep for McEntire told the Los Angeles Times at the time. "Reba is totally devastated by this. It's like losing part of your family. Right now she just wants to get back to Nashville."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories

Marking 29 years since the tragedy, McEntire shared a throwback photo of her band, who related the death of her mother Jacqueline in March to the sad anniversary.

"29 years ago today, I lost my friends in a plane crash. The timing of Mama's passing with that anniversary seems appropriate," she wrote on Instagram on March 16. "I know they're all in Heaven together and taking care of each other. Let's keep finding ways to take care of each other down here on earth and never take one moment with our loved ones for granted."

RELATED VIDEO: How Reba McEntire Takes Care of Her Body, Her Voice — and What She Really Thinks About Aging

Days later, when news of Rogers' death made headlines, McEntire honored her friend, telling him to say "hi" to her mother and father. "Kenny, Go rest high on that mountain. Please tell mama and daddy hi for me. Thank you for your friendship and your love," she wrote. "We are going to miss you but we are so happy you’re singing with the Angels in heaven. Can’t wait to see you again one of these days. Rest in peace my friend."

In March, McEntire reflected on her lasting friendship with Rogers, telling PEOPLE that he was "so easy to work with," and also reflecting on his impact on her during her difficult time 29 years ago.

"The time [with him] I remember most was in 1991, after the plane crash, Kenny and his manager asked if I would be interested in being in the Gambler movie. That probably saved my life, my sanity and my marriage because it took my mind off the crash and losing all my friends," she said.

"I had a wonderful time working with Kenny. ... Also, he was the best joke-teller! What a great man, great entertainer, great family man and a great friend," added McEntire.

Related Articles