MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — The wreckage of a small plane believed to be carrying Jenni Rivera, the U.S-born singer whose soulful voice and unfettered discussion of a series of personal travails made her a Mexican-American superstar, was found in northern Mexico on Sunday. Authorities said there were no survivors.
The singer's father, Pedro Rivera, said he thinks his daughter was on board the plane and that her brother will travel to Mexico on Monday to identify what they presumed were her remains.
Born in Long Beach, California, Jenni Rivera was at the peak of her career as perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated regional style influenced by the norteno, cumbia and ranchero styles.
A 43-year-old mother of five children and grandmother of two, the woman known as the "Diva de la Banda" was known for her 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, was once detained at a Mexico City airport with tens of thousands of dollars in cash, and she publicly apologized after her brother assaulted a drunken fan who verbally attacked her in 2011.
Her openness about her personal troubles endeared her to millions in the U.S. and Mexico.
"I am the same as the public, as my fans," she told The Associated Press in an interview last March.
Rivera sold 15 million records, and 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.
Transportation and Communications Minister Gerardo Ruiz Esparza said "everything points toward" the wreckage belonging to the plane carrying Rivera and six other people to Toluca, outside Mexico City, from Monterrey, where the singer had just given a concert.
"There is nothing recognizable, neither material nor human" in the wreckage found in the state of Nuevo Leon, Ruiz Esparza said. 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."
Rivera's father told dozens of reporters gathered in front of his Los Angeles-area home that "I believe my daughter's body is unrecognizable."
"My son Lupillo told me that effectively it was Jenni's plane that crashed and that everyone on board died," Pedro Rivera said.
Rivera said his son would travel to Monterrey early Monday morning.
No cause was given for the plane's crash, but its wreckage was found near the town of Iturbide in Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental, where the terrain is very rough.
The Learjet 25, number N345MC, took off from Monterrey at 3:30 a.m. local time and was reported missing about 10 minutes later. It was registered to Starwood Management of Las Vegas, Nevada, according to FAA records. It was built in 1969 and had a current registration through 2015.
Media and celebrities in Mexico sent condolences to Rivera's family even though authorities still had not confirmed that she was aboard the plane and said an investigation would be conducted.
"My friend! Why? There is no consolation. God, please help me!" said Mexican pop singer Paulina Rubio on her official Twitter account. Singer Miguel Bose, who appears on the Mexican show "The Mexican Voice" along with Rivera, wrote on his Twitter account: "My dear Jenni, you will always be in my heart. Forever. I love you."
Also believed aboard the plane were her publicist, Arturo Rivera, her lawyer, makeup artist and the flight crew.
Though drug trafficking was the theme of some of her songs, she was not considered a singer of "narco corridos," or ballads glorifying drug lords like other groups, such as Los Tigres del Norte. She was better known for singing about her troubles in love and disdain for men.