December 11, 2012

Investigators comb wreckage in Mexico crash that took singer

E.J. Tamara and Natalia Cano / The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — As tearful fans set up candlelight shrines and memorials to Jenni Rivera from California to Mexico, investigators said it would take days to piece together the wreckage of the plane carrying the Mexican-American music superstar and find out why it went down.

click image to enlarge

In this photo released Monday by Indomina Media, singer and actress Jenni Rivera is shown during the filming of her upcoming movie "Filly Brown." The film is expected to be released in the spring of 2013.

AP

Authorities, meanwhile, began looking into the history of the plane's owner, Starwood Management of Las Vegas, which had another one of its planes seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in McAllen, Texas, in September.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help investigate the crash of the Learjet 25, which disintegrated on impact Sunday with seven people aboard in rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico.

Alejandro Argudin, of Mexico's civil aviation agency, said it would take at least 10 days to have a preliminary report on what happened to the plane.

"We're in the process of picking up the fragments and we have to find all the parts," Argudin told reporters on Monday. "Depending on weather conditions it would take us at least 10 days to have a first report and many more days to have a report by experts."

Fans of Rivera, who sold 15 million records and was loved on both sides of the border for her down-to-earth style and songs about heartbreak and overcoming pain, put up shrines to her with burning candles, flowers and photographs in cities from Hermosillo, Mexico to Los Angeles.

Some Spanish-language radio stations played her songs nonstop.

"She really inspired us as female Hispanics to move forward in life," said fan Rosie Sifuentes at a vigil in Lynwood, California.

At Rivera's father's house in Lakewood, California fans and neighbors walked up the driveway and hugged Pedro Rivera Jr., Jenni's brother.

A distraught Pedro recalled his last conversation with his sister at church when they were taking a collection to buy Christmas toys for needy children.

He said his sister gave him $5,000 to give to the children. "She said, 'I just want to see them smile. I just want to see them happy.' All she wanted was to see the happiness in people. And then she gave me a big hug. She said, 'I love you, brother.'"

He said he was later watching television and wanted to send a text message to his sister to say that he loved her. "But I didn't because I thought maybe she's busy, maybe she's just barely getting out of singing or something ... You just regret those moments."

Another brother, Juan Rivera, still held on to hope that his sister would be found alive.

"In our eyes, we still have faith that my sister will be OK. We have no confirmation of her body being recovered, dead or alive," he told reporters.

The U.S.-born woman known as the "Diva de la Banda" died as her career peaked. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, and had branched out into acting and reality television.

A 43-year-old mother of five children and grandmother of two, she was known for frank talk about her struggles to give a good life to her children despite a series of setbacks.

She was recently divorced from her third husband, former Major League Baseball player Esteban Loaiza.

Rivera recently won two Billboard Mexican Music Awards: Female Artist of the Year and Banda Album of the Year for "Joyas Prestadas: Banda." She was nominated for Latin Grammys in 2002, 2008 and 2011.

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