More sad COVID-19 news out of the Estefan camp.
Just a couple days after Gloria Estefan announced she had tested positive for COVID-19 in early November, potentially from a fan encounter at a Miami restaurant, Estefan — who has since tested negative twice — once again took to Instagram to share that Ron “Bear” Jones, her longtime tour bus driver, had died Thursday from the coronavirus.
Jones, Estefan said, “was one of the sweetest, most loving humans that I’ve had the privilege to know. He was my favorite tour bus driver and was driving us on March 20, 1990, when we had a horrific accident while on the ‘Cuts Both Ways.’ tour. He rode in the ambulance with me to the hospital holding my hand even though he was severely injured himself.”
The Estefan bus accident
The accident happened when the customized bus Jones was driving got sandwiched between two tractor-trailers on snow-clogged Interstate 380 in Pennsylvania more than 30 years ago.
The bus was en route from New York City to a scheduled concert in Syracuse when Jones stopped after a tractor-trailer had jackknifed ahead on the road. The Estefan tour bus idled behind another 18-wheeler. Another tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of their bus, shoving it into the truck ahead.
“We were stopped, waiting for them to clear the road. I didn’t see him coming,” Jones said at the time.
Estefan was sleeping in a bunk and thrown to the floor and broke her back. Her husband Emilio Estefan, their son Nayib, Jones and others aboard the bus were injured. Her painful recovery inspired a No. 1 pop single in 1991, “Coming Out of the Dark,” and was a pivotal moment in the Broadway bio musical based on the Estefans’ lives, “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan.”
“He drove us on every tour after that including my final world tour in 2004,” Gloria Estefan said in her Instagram post. “May he rest in peace in the knowledge that he was well loved & respected and we will miss him a lot on this earth. My sincerest condolences to his family and all who loved him.”
Jones had been driving tour buses since the 1970s when he drove gospel act The Hemphills on the road, Truck News magazine reported in 2014. Classic rock band Boston, of “More Than a Feeling” fame, was the next band he drove around the country. An adjustment.
“I grew up in gospel,” Jones told Truck News.
How Kiss got Jones rolling again
In addition to Estefan, Jones drove Oprah Winfrey, the Backstreet Boys, Peter Frampton and others on tours. The first band he drove after the Estefan bus accident was Kiss. He told Truck News he was worried people would not want to ride with him after the frightful crash — even though it was not his fault.
When Jones had Kiss on his bus and drove the same stretch of Pennsylvania road he was on in 1990, the four rockers sat around him and gave him moral support, he told Truck News.
“There’s some beautiful people in the business,” Jones said. “You become part of their lives. It doesn’t matter to me that they’re big stars … you become friends.”