For the first time since his duo partner Troy Gentry's death in a helicopter crash on Sept. 8, Eddie Montgomery has made a public statement. In a letter sent to radio programmers with a copy of Montgomery Gentry's new single "Better Me," Montgomery offers gratitude for fans' love and prayers following the tragedy, and shares some thoughts on his relationship with Gentry and their upcoming new music.

"I want to thank everyone for their support and prayers," Montgomery's note begins. "Our world was turned upside down in an instant, and nothing could have prepared us for this."

Shortly after Gentry's death, Montgomery Gentry's record label, Average Joes Entertainment, revealed that the duo had recently completed a new album. In the days leading up to Gentry's memorial service at the Grand Ole Opry on Sept. 14, the label shared with radio one of that project's new songs, "Better Me," which features Gentry on lead vocals and lyrics such as “I’ve turned the page on wilder days / I’m writing all this down, hopin’ you’ll see / I ain’t sayin’ I’m perfect, but I’m workin’ on a better me.”

Country Artists Remember Troy Gentry

"I think [this new album] is the best record of our career," Montgomery admits. ""Better Me" is a song we all loved, and Troy sings his a-- off on it. It speaks volumes about his life and who he had become and everyone he touched and how much he loved his family.

"I am so proud of this song," Montgomery adds, "and also to call [Gentry] my friend, my family, my brother for 30 years."

The helicopter crash that killed Gentry took place in Medford, N.J.; he and Montgomery were scheduled to perform there that evening. The National Transportation Safety Board has issued its preliminary report on the crash, which expands upon initial reports that the helicopter pilot experienced mechanical issues prior to crashing.

Gentry was removed from the helicopter crash wreckage at the scene but was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. In addition to Gentry, the helicopter’s pilot, James Evan Robinson, died in the crash; crews worked for hours to remove his body from the wreck.

“Known for his wide smile, Gentry was personally driven by faith, family and living life to the fullest,” Gentry’s official obituary reads. “One of his favorite Bible verses was Deuteronomy 31:6, which says, ‘Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.’”

On Sept. 15, Montgomery's wife Jennifer offered the first public statement from the Montgomery Gentry family since Gentry's death. In it, she noted that "[f]riends like you have helped us get through this difficult time.”

Montgomery Gentry Through the Years: 15 Memorable Moments