Negligence, Unfit Pilots Caused Plane Crash That Killed Jenni Rivera

Investigation cites "series of factors" in 2012 tragedy

jenni rivera, plane crash, cause
Jenni Rivera in 2010 Photo by Getty Images
Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

Almost exactly one year after Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera died in a December 9, 2012 plane crash, the causes behind the tragedy have become clearer. As Billboard points out, a report filed by Mexico's General Civil Aviation Administration (DGAC) on December 3 claims that the crash resulted from a "series of factors" that could have included the age of the 1969 aircraft, the ages of the pilot and co-pilot, and negligence in reporting previous issues with the LearJet's operation.

Unfortunately, the investigation found that the plane's "high level destruction" did not allow for a conclusive answer as to what caused the accident, but weather conditions and a fire or explosion on the plane were ruled out as possibilities, according to the DGAC, which conducted the probe with officials from the United States National Transportation Safety Board, alongside representatives from Mexico's national pilots and aeronautic engineer associations.

Based on findings from radar images of the LearJet's flight, a problem with the plane's horizontal stabilizer could have resulted in "a sudden and abrupt lack of control" during ascent. Going into further detail, the report also noted that Rivera and the four members of her entourage also killed in the crash were aboard "an aircraft that was more than 43 years old, operated by pilots in the extremes of the span of life, one who was 78 years old and the other who was 21 years old."

Federal Aviation Administration records show that the 78-year-old pilot, Miguel Pérez Soto, was not licensed in the U.S. to carry passengers on a commercial flight. His credentials also restricted him to visual flight rules, meaning he was not permitted for the kind of instrument-controlled flying that's sometimes necessary when skies aren't clear. The aircraft was at an instrumental flying altitude when it crashed.

Another irregularity the DGAC dug up is the fact that Pérez should not have been flying the LearJet, which weighed 6,800 kilos, because Mexican regulations restrict pilots over the age of 65 from flying planes heavier than 5,700 kilos. (That said, in January 2012, the DGAC did grant Pérez a license allowing him to fly aircrafts over 5,700 kilos.) Meanwhile, the 21-year-old co-pilot, Alejandro Torres, was not authorized to fly the plane outside of the U.S.

The DGAC also cites negligence from the plane's owner, Las Vegas charter company Starwood Enterprises. "The aircraft operator did not allow notes in the logs about failures detected by the crew as when the aircraft flew out of alignment and vibrated when it reached cruising altitude," reads the report.

Earlier this year, family members of the four passengers who died along with Rivera filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Starwood and the plane's previous owner in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County. The complaint, which accused the defendants of "conscious disregard for the safety of others," asked for a jury trial to determine damages.

Another lawsuit was filed against the LearJet's owners in March, on behalf of Pérez's widow, sabel Carrero Gomez. Last month, a judge rejected a motion put forward by Starwood requesting that the suits be dismissed in California and taken to Mexico. The judge ruled that the cases will be heard in Los Angeles.

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