Singer, reality television star Jenni Rivera dies in plane crash, brother says
From Guillermo Arduino
(CNN) — Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera died when the small plane she was traveling in with at least five others crashed in the mountains of northern Mexico, her brother told CNN.
Authorities notified the family there were no survivors, Gustavo Rivera said late Sunday. He planned to fly to Mexico early Monday to identify his sister’s remains.
There were conflicting reports about the number of people aboard the plane, which took off early Sunday from Monterrey, Mexico, and lost contact with air traffic controllers a short time later.
Rivera said there were six people aboard: his sister, her publicist, her lawyer, a family friend and two pilots. The Civil Aviation Authority of Mexico said there were up to seven people on the plane, though it did not identify those believed to be on board.
The news from Rivera’s brother confirmed what authorities would only publicly say they suspected earlier in the day.
“The aircraft was destroyed, totally fragmented,” Alejandro Argudin, director general of civil aviation, told CNN affiliate Televisa. He said he believed no one survived the crash.
Rivera was known to fans as “La Diva de la Banda,” or The Diva of Banda Music, establishing herself initially as a regional Mexican musical powerhouse with her banda and corridos, or traditional ballad, performances.
In recent years, Rivera had been working to crack the U.S. market and was reportedly on the verge of a crossover with an English-language show inspired by the success of “I Love Jenni,” a Spanish-language reality TV show on Telemundo’s mun2 network.
“We lost an awesome woman, mother, sister, friend and artist,” said her business partner and manager Pete Salgado.
Rivera was beloved by fans as much for her music as her over-the-top lifestyle that was chronicled in “I Love Jenni” on Telemundo.
Born in Long Beach, California, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera, 43, released her debut album in 1999, according to her website.
She followed that up with two more albums, including the 2003 album “Farewell to Selena” — a tribute to slain Tejano star Selena Gomez — that increased her popularity.
Her father, Pedro, and two of her brothers also are well-known performers in Mexico and portions of the Southwestern United States.
Rivera sold 15 million records, according to Billboard. She recently won two Billboard music awards, including favorite Mexican music female artist. She also was nominated for Latin Grammy Awards in 2002, 2008 and 2011.
In October, People en Espanol named Rivera to its list of the 25 most powerful women.
Famous for her music, she is also known for her tumultuous personal life. The singer was a single mom at the age of 15 and is the mother of five, her website said.
In 2009, she made headlines when she was detained at the Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
A year later, she made headlines again with the marriage to former baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who played for the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In October, she announced she was filing for divorce after less than two years of marriage. It was her third marriage.
“I Love Jenni,” which began airing on mun2 last year, featured her life on the road, balancing the duties of motherhood and stardom as she toured Mexico and the United States.
She also was a judge on the popular TV show, “The Voice, Mexico,” which was scheduled to air Sunday night. In its place, Televisa said it would air a special report about the singer.
A fellow judge on the show took to Twitter after news of Rivera’s disappearance.
“My heart is devastated,” wrote Beto Cuevas. “All my prayers are with you, Jenni, and your family.”
Rivera had a concert in Monterrey on Saturday night before boarding the Learjet early Sunday.
In those final hours after the concert, Rivera opened up to reporters about her divorce and the inner strength she found, thanks to her family.
“I’m so happy. So many strong things have happened in my life. I can’t get up in the negative, which destroys you,” she said.
“I have brothers. I have children. I have nephews. And they keep me from focusing on the negative.”
Her plane took off from Monterrey at 3:15 a.m., according to a statement from the Transportation Ministry. Its destination was the airport in Toluca, near Mexico City. Air traffic controllers lost contact with it about 60 miles into the flight, the ministry said.
Two helicopters assisting in the search for the plane spotted the wreckage in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, the ministry said.
The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and the ministry is investigating.
Fans and celebrities took to social media to mourn the singer and television star who was known as much for her music as she was sometimes for her over-the-top antics.
“Spent some time with Jenni Rivera recently. What an amazing lady … Cool, smart, funny & talented. Such a travesty … God Bless her family,” actor Mario Lopez tweeted.
Mexican singing sensation Paulina Rubio was inconsolable on Twitter.
“My friend! Why? There is no consolation. God, please help me!” she tweeted.
CNNMexico.com, CNN’s Leslie Tripp and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.
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