Kenny Chesney is mourning the loss of his longtime friend Maria Rodriguez, one of four individuals who died Monday (Feb. 15) during a helicopter accident in the Virgin Islands.
Chesney honored his late friend in an Instagram post on Monday evening, saying, “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.”
He accompanied the post with photos of himself with Rodriguez standing in front of a helicopter, a closeup snapshot of the two of them smiling, as well as shots of Rodriguez lounging in Chesney’s signature “Old Blue” wicker chair, and having fun on the beach.
He added, “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. 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.”
He ended his post by saying, “So goodbye sweet friend. I’m sure glad our paths crossed on this side. See you on the other.”
Chesney’s love of the islands has long been evident, from his music videos to brand imaging for albums such as 2002’s No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems and his holiday album All I Want For Christmas Is A Real Good Tan. In 2005, he released Be as You Are (Songs from an Old Blue Chair), filled with stories inspired by his time in the islands.
Of course, Chesney’s love of the island communities goes far beyond music. After Hurricane Irma ravaged the Virgin Islands in 2017, Chesney funneled the pain of seeing the area’s destruction into the song “Better Boat.” The following year, he released the project Song for the Saints to help raise funds to help those impacted by Hurricane Irma, and donated all proceeds from sales of the album to his nonprofit Love for Love City Fund.
At the time, he also shared that when the hurricane hit, he invited friends in the area to take refuge in his St. John home, which was built to withstand 200 mph winds. Though all of his friends survived the storm, his house was heavily damaged. Chesney told People at the time about flying to the islands to see the damage and about being inspired to help.
“I literally wept in the helicopter,” he told People. “My heart broke. I knew that a lot of people that I loved and an island that I loved was really bleeding, and we had to figure out a way to stop it.”