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Jenni Rivera plane nose-dived at 600 mph, Mexican official says

December 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The small plane carrying Mexican-American music superstar Jenni Rivera plunged in a nose-dive from more than 28,000 feet and hit the ground at more than 600 mph, Mexico's top transportation official said.

Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico's secretary of communications and transportation, offered a Mexican radio station the first detailed accounts of the moments leading up to the crash that killed Rivera and six other people aboard the Learjet on Sunday.

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

"The plane practically nose-dived," Ruiz told Radio Formulate. "The impact must have been terrible."

Ruiz said the 43-year-old aircraft hit the ground 1.2 miles from where it began falling and that it plummeted at a nearly 45-degree angle. The plane left Monterrey around 3:30 a.m. Sunday after a concert performance. According to authorities, controllers lost contact with the U.S.-registered plane about 10 minutes after takeoff.

Three of Rivera's brothers left for Mexico on Monday in hopes of learning more about the singer's death. Lupillo Rivera, who is also a singer, arrived in Monterrey on Tuesday.

Mexican officials said the remains of Rivera and the six others on the plane were recovered from the site of the crash and transported them to Hospital Universitario de Monterrey in Nuevo Leon. DNA tests of the nearest blood relatives are needed to confirm the identity of the remains.

At the plane crash site in rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state, investigators were trying to pick up all the fragments of the disintegrated plane, a process that could take around 10 days.

Although the plane disintegrated on impact and much of the wreckage was immediately unrecognizable, Rivera's mangled California driver's license was found. The aviation investigation board confirmed the singer's death Monday.

Rivera's family members said they had not received clear answers surrounding the circumstances of the crash or the singer's likely death.

"She was in a plane crash, as everybody knows, but we still have our hopes very, very high that we're going to go find her," said Jenni's brother, Gustavo Rivera, before boarding a plane to Mexico on Monday.

Rivera's sister Tweeted her appreciation for the condolences she's received, but said she's not ready to grieve until the star's remains are identified.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board planned on sending a team to Mexico to help investigate the cause of the crash.

The jet was built in 1969 and records show it sustained substantial damage in an accident in 2005 when it experienced a fuel system malfunction.

Fans from Mexico to Southern California are paying their respects to the late Jenni Rivera.

On Tuesday, photos and flowers were still being adding to a memorial erected outside the 43-year-old singer's family home in Lakewood Monday. Fans say they are still in shock and disbelief over the death of the "Diva de la Banda."

"I can't believe it. It's crazy. She was a very independent woman," said Jenny Espinoza of La Puente. "To know that she's gone and that were not going to see her again performing is a big tragedy."

Beloved fans placed religious images next to the memorial to pay respects to the superstar adored by millions and to the family suffering from such a tragic loss.

"We just wanted to, I guess, give a little hope to the family," said Tiffany Hidalgo, a fan from Rivera. "Even though there's nothing that can take this away, nothing's going to bring her back, at least they know that her fans are there for them."

A candlelight vigil was also held in Rivera's hometown of Long Beach. Fans lined part of Obispo Avenue and created a makeshift memorial for the Mexican music star.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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