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Jenni Rivera's family holds out hope as fans mourn singer

December 10, 2012 | 10:19 pm

Makeshift memorials rose in Encino and Lakewood Monday as friends, family and fans remembered Mexican American singer Jenni Rivera, who was feared dead in a plane crash near Toluca, Mexico.

Fan gathered Monday morning at her Encino home. A candlelight vigil was held Monday night in Long Beach, her hometown.

And in Lakewood, her brothers held a news conference in which they feared the worst but still held out hope.

PHOTOS: Jenni Rivera believed dead in plane crash

"We still have hope that she's alive," Pedro Rivera Jr., the singer's brother, told the Press-Telegram. "It's a 95% chance that she's dead, but we have that belief because we don't have a body. They found clothes. They found shoes, but they didn't find any DNA."

The Long Beach native was 43 and leaves behind five children. Mexico's ministry of transportation did not confirm her death outright but said she had been aboard the plane and no one survived. Six others, including two pilots, also were on board.

"She was the Diana Ross of Mexican music," said Gustavo Lopez, an executive vice president at Universal Music Latin Entertainment, an umbrella group that includes Rivera's label. Lopez called Rivera "larger than life" and said that based on ticket sales, she was by far the top-grossing female artist in Mexico.

An appreciation: Jenni Rivera was a rare voice

Rivera had performed a concert in Monterrey, Mexico, on Saturday night — her standard fare of knee-buckling power ballads, pop-infused interpretations of traditional banda music and dizzying rhinestone costume changes.

At a news conference after the show, Rivera appeared happy and tranquil, pausing at one point to take a call on her cellphone that turned out to be a wrong number. She fielded questions about struggles in her personal life, including her recent separation from husband Esteban Loaiza, a former major league pitcher whose career included a stint with the Dodgers. "I can't focus on the negative," she said in Spanish. "Because that will defeat you. That will destroy you.... The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up."

Hours later, shortly after 3 a.m., Rivera is believed to have boarded a Learjet 25, which took off under clear skies. The jet headed south, toward Toluca, west of Mexico City; there, Rivera had been scheduled to tape the television show "La Voz" — Mexico's version of "The Voice" — on which she was a judge.

The plane, built in 1969 and registered to a Las Vegas talent management firm, reached 11,000 feet. But 10 minutes and 62 miles into the flight, air traffic controllers lost contact with its pilots, according to Mexican authorities.

The jet crashed outside Iturbide, a remote city that straddles one of the few roads bisecting Mexico's Sierra de Arteaga national park. Wreckage was scattered across several football fields' worth of terrain. An investigation into the cause of the crash was underway.


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-- Adolfo Flores