The Learjet 25 aircraft carrying singer Jenni Rivera and six others, which had been involved in an accident in 2005, experienced a quick decent from 35,000 to 9,000 feet before losing contact and crashing, according to Mexican officials.
Investigators continue to comb through the plane crash wreckage site, which spans nearly 1,000 feet wide, as questions run rampant over the 78-year-old pilot, Miguel Pérez Soto, and the operational soundness of the aircraft carrying the Mexican-American superstar singer Rivera.
"We are watching, reviewing all the documentation, the administrative trail, of both the pilots and the aircraft, and so far we have found no irregularities. We will be looking at both documents to provide a result of the investigation," Alejandro Argudín, Director of Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT), told Mexican publication El Economista. "The collection of evidence could take us maybe up to 10 days, depending on weather conditions and a number of factors. We hope to finish it much earlier, to fast forward with this investigation."
Argudín said they are unsure whether or not the aircraft carried a black box, which would have recorded the plane’s final moments in detail, but reassured the public that even it did not, it won’t stop the investigation from moving forward.
Early Sunday morning singer Rivera boarded the Learjet 25 heading to Toluca, an hour outside of Mexico City, after her concert in Sultana del Norte, Monterrey. The small private jet, registered as N345MC, departed from Mariano Escobedo airport at approximately 3:30 AM carrying seven people onboard including Rivera, four passengers and two pilots.
But just 10 minutes after takeoff, air traffic control lost contact with the Learjet 61.8 miles south of Monterrey. That’s when the jet experienced a sharp decline from 35,000 to 9,000 feet, according to Argudín.
The plane crashed near a ranch called “El Tejocote” in Iturbide, Nuevo Leon killing everyone onboard including: Mexican-American music superstar Rivera, her attorney Mario Macias, makeup artist Jacob Yebale, publicist Arturo Rivera (not family-related) and stylist Jorge Sanchez. The pilots were Soto and Alejandro Torres.
The plane wreckage was discovered approximately 12 hours later on Sunday afternoon at 3 PM.
The impact was so powerful that the remains of the plane "are scattered over an area of 250 to 300 meters. It is almost unrecognizable," said Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, an official from ministry of Communications and Transportation. "There is nothing recognizable, neither material nor human."
“There are no survivors and this is obviously a result of the condition of the aircraft,” Argudín said in a press conference.
This was not the first time this particular plane had been involved in an accident. The Learjet 25 plane was made in 1969, ironically the same year Rivera was born, and is owned by Starwood Management LLC, in Nevada, according to FAA records.
In July 2005, the 43-year-old aircraft suffered “substantial” damage in Amarillo, Texas while landing. According to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, “the airplane struck a runway distance marker, and exited the runway to the left during landing roll,” the report also cited that the “the left wingtip tank fuel load was 200 – 300 pounds heavier than the right wing-tip during landing.”
The report however seems to put the blame on the 62-year-old pilot in command of the aircraft that day.
“The pilot's failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll,” the NTSB report said, was the probable cause of the accident. “A contributing factor was the prevailing crosswind.”
All in all, between September 1977 and March 2011, the NTSB lists 40 incidents involving Learjet 25 and similar variant models. Of the 40 incidents 11 of the events involved the Learjet 25, including 3 fatal incidents resulting in a total of 7 deaths. It is important to note that the NTSB only reports on aircrafts that either originate or land in the United States.
The Aviation Safety Network found 55 incidents worldwide involving the Learjet 25.
According to the site, Rivera’s plane crash is only the third to ever happen in Mexico involving the Learjet 25 and the only crash involving that plane to include fatalities.
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