Family members of Mexican "banda" singer and reality TV star Jenni Rivera faced the grim prospect today of retrieving her remains from northern Mexico, where she was killed with six others when her rented Learjet crashed shortly after takeoff.
The Learjet LJ25 crashed around 3:30 a.m. Sunday, 15 minutes after leaving Monterrey, Mexico, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is assisting Mexican authorities with the crash investigation. She had given a concert in Monterrey.
The jet went down about 70 miles south of Monterrey "due to unknown circumstances" while en route to Toluca, outside Mexico City, according to the NTSB.
"All seven persons on board were fatally injured including Latin singer Jenni Rivera," according to the NTSB.
Searchers late Sunday found wreckage, but no survivors, near Iturbide, Nuevo Leon, according to the city's mayor, who was quoted on the Televisa station in Monterrey. Rivera's driver's license was found in the wreckage, which was strewn over a large area, but the grim task of recovering possible remains was continuing.
Born in Long Beach, the 43-year-old Rivera, a mother of five who maintained an estate in Encino, dominated the "banda" style of regional Mexican music popular in California and northwestern Mexico. She was one of the biggest stars on Mexico television and was popular on "regional Mexican" stations in California.
Rivera lived a tumultuous life, which was the basis for much of her music. She had been married and divorced three times, the last time from former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Esteban Loaiza.
One of her brothers, Juan Rivera, speaking at a news conference at the family's Lakewood home Monday, said he clings to the hope that she is alive and will do so until he has confirmation that her body has been recovered.
Another brother, Pedro Rivera Jr., related he had seen her Thursday, just before she took off for Mexico for concerts. He said he planned to go to Mexico and return to Southern California with the body, depending on the status of the investigation.
The singer, who sold more than 15 million records, sang songs of heartbreak and abuse. She had her own reality show, and ABC was developing a comedy pilot for her, according to the entertainment website Deadline.com.
Television reports indicated that the 43-year-old Learjet crashed in fogy conditions in a remote mountainous area. The plane was owned by a Las Vegas company, Starlight Management.
Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico's secretary of communications and transportation, described the crash site in remarks quoted by the Los Angeles Times, saying, "Everything is destroyed. Nothing is recognizable."
The jet, with pilots Miguel Perez Soto, 78, and Alejandro Torres at the controls, experienced a rapid descent from 35,000 feet to about 9,000 feet before losing contact with ground controllers, Alejandro Argudin, director of civil aviation at Mexico's Ministry of Communications and Transportation, told the Mexican publication El Economista. Gathering evidence could take 10 days, he said.
The jet sustained damage when it struck a runway distance marker and left the runway during a landing in Amarillo, Texas, in 2005, according to Fox News Latino, which cited an NTSB investigation of the incident that found the fuel load was improperly distributed in the plane's wings.
The NTSB report said the pilot's "failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll" was the probable cause of the mishap and that a prevailing crosswind was a contributing factor, Fox News Latino reported.
Hundreds of fans gathered in Lynwood's Plaza Mexico Monday to commemorate the singer.
"She was proud of who she was and where she came from." Los Angeles resident Lisa Mollete told South Gate-Lynwood Patch. "As an artist she was very common, like her fans. I'll miss her."