The helicopter that crashed in Medford, New Jersey, killing country music star Troy Gentry and the vehicle’s pilot, James Evan Robinson, called for help after experiencing mechanical problems on Friday.
In emergency dispatch audio obtained by TMZ, responders said the the aircraft had been hovering for several minutes waiting for the fire department to arrive before attempting an emergency landing.
The helicopter crashed before responders arrived.
The 50-year-old country star was scheduled to perform with bandmate Eddie Montgomery at the Flying W Airport and Resort in Medford on Friday evening, and the concert was canceled immediately.
“It is with great sadness that we confirm that Troy Gentry, half of the popular country duo, Montgomery Gentry, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash which took place at approximately 1:00 p.m. today in Medford, New Jersey,” the band said in a statement on their Facebook page on Friday.
Gentry leaves behind wife Angie and daughters Kaylee and Taylor.
“Nobody loved life more than Troy Gentry,” music journalist and author Holly Gleason tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Whatever adventure, all night party or hardcore hillbilly song, he was up for it.”
Gleason, who did publicity for Gentry and bandmate Eddie Montgomery in the early ’00s, last saw her friend Sunday during the band’s set at the Tequila Bay Country Music Festival in Miami.
“He was on that stage, guitars blazing, trading vocals with his partner Eddie — and they made it feel like the biggest party in a place that knows how to party,” Gleason says. “Hot and sweltering as it was, the crowd was up, dancing and yowling and throwing down to ‘Hillbilly Shoes,’ ‘Gone’ and Charlie Daniels’ ‘All Night Long.’”
She adds: “That’s the thing about Troy, it was all in good fun. It all rocked, and it made people feel more dangerous than they were, yet somehow kept them safe as new kittens. To be able to walk that line, maybe it truly does take hillbilly shoes.”
One of country music’s most recognizable duos, Montgomery Gentry was nominated for a Grammy in 2008 and inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009. Their music was far reaching, too — in 2007, Maya Angelou invited them to open for her when she played at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Though she recognized that the band was much different from her, she called them her “sons.”
“I reckon we’re like a married couple, sort of,” Montgomery said of more than 20 years together in a 2013 interview with the Des Moines Register. “You hear horror stories all the time about duos, but we’ve always just been friends having fun and making music.”