Tejano legend, SA native Emilio Navaira dies at 53

Navaira won multiple awards, helped Tejano music movement

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – Legendary Tejano star and San Antonio native Emilio Navaira died Monday night at the age of 53.

The New Braunfels Police Department told KSAT 12 emergency response crews were sent to a home in the 6300 block of Myrtle Run around 8:20 p.m. Monday. 

Navaira was found unconscious and not breathing by family members, police said.  

He was taken to Resolute Health Hospital in New Braunfels were he later died, according to David Ferguson with the New Braunfels Police Department.

Police said preliminary results indicate that Navaira died of natural causes, however a final determination will be made by the medical examiner following an autopsy.

KSAT's Concetta Callahan spoke with one of Navaira's neighbors Tuesday morning who were still in shock over the singer's death.

"It was very unexpected sudden news," said Mark De La Cruz. "He was just a great individual and he had great music, and Emilio's music touched a lot of individual's lives." 

Navaira was described as the Garth Brooks of Tejano music and is widely credited for bringing the genre to the mainstream in the late 1980s and 90s, along with Selena.

He was born in 1962 and raised on the South Side, graduated from McCollum High School in 1980 and went on to win multiple Grammy Awards and Tejano Music Awards.  

Navaira began his performing career as the lead singer for David Lee Garza y los Musicales before he formed his own group, Emilio y Grupo Rio, in the late 80s with his brother Raul Navaira.

He released more than a dozen albums throughout his career.

Reaction from Tejano music community

The Tejano music community reacted to Navaira's death on Tuesday. Here's what some prominent artists told KSAT's Erica Hernandez about his death.

Little Joe from Little Joe Y La Familia: "We're all going to miss him and of course the Tejano genre lost one of it's great ones."

WATCH: Community reacts to Navaira's death

Jaime DeAnda from Jaime Y Los Chamacos: "Every time I see him the embrace he gave you the hug. The stregnth he shows, he hugs you so tight. He always kisses you on the cheek, he always says I love you man."

Chente Barrera: "I'm still at a lost for words. I really don't know how to grasp it. I guess that's life you know."

Gilbert Rodriguez – Tejano Hall of Famer: "I've known him for a long time, we lost an icon. My condolences to the family." 

Navaira's legal troubles 

Navaira also made headlines off the stage when he was involved in a tour bus crash outside Houston in 2008.

He was hospitalized in critical condition and kept in a medically induced coma. Navaira was driving the bus and the police report stated he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. It was his third DWI charge.

He pleaded guilty to a drunken-driving charge, resulting in a fine, house arrest and probation.

In January 2000, Navaira was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend and resisting arrest. He was released on bail. 

Family statement 

Navaira's manager/agent Joe Casillas released a statement on behalf of the family on Tuesday afternoon. It read in part: 

As most of you will know, it is a bit early to give any type of statement of the cause of his death, we will wait for the autopsy results to indicate that cause.

We ask the fans and media to please respect the families space at this time as they assimilate their tremendous loss and to give them time to prepare a proper good bye to the REY DEL RODEO. 

The Navaira Family would like to extend their gratitude for all of the love and condolences, for always being there for Emilio, they are requesting time to prepare the funeral services and the next steps needed. "You can be sure that the fans will have to say good bye to Emilio" said Maru Navaira, wife of the singer, "We are just asking for time" she added.

Below is a timeline of Emilio Navaira's career highlights and legal troubles:

WATCH: Emilio performed at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1990, '95-97, '99 and 2007.

Rest in paradise my Friend Emilio Navaira. I was just with him and Raulito 5 de Mayo weekend laughing about old times. My heart goes out to all his familia. Gonna miss you brother.

Posted by A.B. Quintanilla on Monday, May 16, 2016

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez has been at KSAT since 2010. He's covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area, and is the lead reporter for KSAT Explains. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms. You can see RJ regularly on KSAT Explains and Good Morning San Antonio. He also writes a weekly Spurs newsletter.

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.