Music star Jenni Rivera's plane hit with 'terrible' impact

Jenni Rivera

The plane carrying Mexican-American music superstar Jenni Rivera plunged almost vertically from more than 28,000 feet and hit the ground in a nose-dive at a speed that may have exceeded 600 miles per hour, Mexico's top transportation official said Tuesday.

In the first detailed account of the moments leading up to the crash that killed Rivera and six other people, Secretary of Communications and Transportation Gerardo Ruiz Esparza told Radio Formula that the twin-engine turbojet hit the ground 1.2 miles from where it began falling.

``The plane practically nose-dived,'' he said. ``The impact must have been terrible.''

Ruiz did not offer any explanation of what may have caused the plane to plummet, saying only that ``The plane fell from an altitude of 28,000 feet ... It may have hit a speed higher than 1,000 kph (621 mph).''

Ruiz said the pilot of the plane, Miguel Perez Soto, had a valid Mexican pilot's license that would have expired in January. Photos of a temporary pilot's certificate issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and found amid the wreckage said that Perez was 78.

Ruiz said there is no age limit for flying a civil aviation aircraft, though for commercial it's 65.

Mexican authorities were performing DNA tests Tuesday on remains believed to belong to Rivera and the others killed when her plane went down in northern Mexico early Sunday morning.

Investigators said it would take days to piece together the wreckage of the plane carrying Rivera and find out why it went down.

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 in the rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico.

Human remains found in the wreckage were moved to a hospital in Monterrey, the closest major city to the crash, and Rivera's brother Lupillo was driven past a crowd of reporters to the area where the remains were being kept. He did not speak to the press.

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