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Jenni Rivera, Mexican-American singer, believed dead; plane wreck found with no survivors, says official

December 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The wreckage of a plane believed to be carrying singer Jenni Rivera was found, and there are no apparent survivors, Mexican officials say.

Transportation and communication minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza told Mexican television that the plane was found in Nuevo Leon state without survivors.

See photos from the career of singer and television star Jenni Rivera

Esparza said that "everything points toward it being the plane" that carried the Mexican-American singer and six others.

"There is nothing recognizable, neither material nor human" in the wreckage, Ruiz Esparza told the Televisa network. The impact was so powerful that the remains of the plane were scattered over an area of about 275 to 330 feet. "It is almost unrecognizable."

Though her death had not been positively confirmed, family, friends and fans were grieving. Vigils were held across Southern California.

Outside the Rivera home in Lakewood on Sunday night, Rivera's sister and her daughters grieved through song as her brothers prepared to head to Mexico to bring the singer's body back home.

"They're telling us that bodies were everywhere," said Rivera's brother, Gustavo. "We're just going to try to go bring back whatever we can."

For Rivera's brother, Pedro, who is a pastor, she was more than just a sister and a star. She was also a close friend.

"Sometimes as pastors we don't have anybody to talk to. I could talk to her and tell her anything that I wanted or that I needed to tell her."

The family said they plan to hold a memorial service so fans will have an opportunity to say goodbye to the singer.

"I'm just hoping that everybody, when I drive down the street, I can hear her music play day in and day out, because that's what's going to make me cry but it's going to make me the happiest man," Gustavo Rivera said.

The mayor of the town of Iturbide in Nuevo Le?n state, Jose Antonio Gonzalez, had said earlier that a plane had been located in the municipality of Los Tejocotes.

A government spokesman told Milenio television that Rivera's plane took off at about 3:30 a.m. local time after a concert, and aviation authorities lost contact with the craft about 10 minutes later. It was scheduled to land an hour later in Toluca, which is located outside Mexico City.

Crews searched for hours for the U.S.-registered Learjet 25, with helicopters from the local civilian protection agency flying over the state. Alejandro Argudin, of Mexico's civil aviation agency, said the search was focusing on a mountainous region of Galeana in Nuevo Le?n, which is where authorities lost contact with the plane. Crews later expanded their search to include another mountainous region in Iturbide, also in Nuevo Le?n.

Mexican media reports that the plane was carrying a total of seven people: the singer, two pilots and four other passengers.

Milenio television listed those aboard on its YouTube channel as: "Miguel P?rez and Alejandro Torres (pilots), Jenni Dolores Rivera Saavedra, Alberto Rivera Saavedra, Mario Macias, Jacob Llenares and Gerardo N.," adding that these were the individuals' registered names.

Rivera's makeup artist Jacob Yebale posted a photo on his Instagram account with the locater as Monterrey General Mariano Escobedo International Airport with the caption, "We getting back To Mexico City...jenni Rivera, Arturo, Gigi and Me...Los Amooo!"

It's unclear whether Jacob Yebale is Jacob Llenares as listed by Milenio TV. But the ministry of transportation and communication released a statement saying Rivera's publicist, lawyer and makeup artist were among those aboard the plane.

Rivera's most recent post on Twitter is a re-Tweet of what appears to be a fan's message.

The 43 year old is a Long Beach native and is known for her interpretations of Mexican regional music known as norte?a and banda. The mother of five children and grandmother of two had announced in October that she was divorcing baseball player Esteban Loaiza after two years of marriage. It was her third marriage. She was better known for singing about her disdain for men.

The so-called Diva of the Banda, who has sold more than 20 million records, recently won two Billboard Mexican Music Awards: Female Artist of the Year and Banda Album of the Year for "Joyas prestadas: Banda." Her famous songs include "La Gran Senora" and "De Contrabando."

The singer, businesswoman and actress appeared in the indie film Filly Brown, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, as the incarcerated mother of Filly Brown. She also has her own reality shows including "I Love Jenni" and "Jenni Rivera Presents: Chiquis and Raq-C" and her daughter's "Chiquis 'n Control." She had recently signed a contract with ABC to star in a comedy project.

See photos from the career of singer and television star Jenni Rivera

Rivera had a home in Encino. Friends and fans began to gather at the home to share their grief and memories.

Celebrities tweeted condolences.

"Our deepest sympathy to the family & fans of @jennirivera & those that accompanied her on what was to be her last voyage. Rest in peace...," singer Gloria Estefan tweeted.

"I can't believe what has happened to @jennirivera... My heart is with their families. I wish them all the strength in the world. May God hold her in his Glory..." actor William Levy tweeted in Spanish.

At the KBUA radio station, which helped launched Rivera's career, they were mourning the loss. They said they would play her music around the clock for the next several days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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