A husband-and-wife political power couple who were the current and ex-governors of the central Mexican state of Puebla died in a Christmas Eve helicopter crash, officials announced.
Mexico’s political class was stunned by the deaths of Gov. Martha Erika Alonso and ex-Gov. Rafael Moreno Valle, a prominent figure in the opposition National Action Party who had vied unsuccessfully for the party’s presidential nomination and its internal leadership. He was currently a federal senator for the party.
Two pilots and a third passenger also died.
Mexican governor Martha Erika Alonso (right) was killed in a helicopter crash Monday alongside her spouse Rafael Moreno Valle Rosas (left)
The Agusta 109 helicopter fell about 10 minutes after taking off from a heliport within the city of Puebla on a flight to Mexico City.
It crashed in the municipality of Santa Maria Coronango, which is about 3.5 miles (5.5 kilometers) north of the city’s main airport on the western outskirts, federal Public Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo told a news conference.
Images of the crash showed a shattered, still smoldering aircraft on the edge of a scorched patch of cornfield.
The aircraft went down in Huetjotzingo, a small city near the second largest in Mexico, Puebla
Images of the scene near Puebla showed the small plane ablaze in the afternoon
Plumes of smoke could be seen as the helicopter was still on fire when others arrived at the scene
The aircraft had taken off from the city of Puebla is was reported
Both federal and state officials said they had opened investigations into the cause – a potentially sensitive case because President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Morena party had challenged the validity of Alonso’s election in July. She was sworn in 10 days ago after independent electoral authorities dismissed the challenge.
State spokesman Maximiliano Cortazar demanded a “transparent, impartial and independent” investigation.
Lopez Obrador expressed his “deepest condolences” via Twitter to the family of on Monday evening.
It was not immediately clear how many were on board but it was reported at least two others died
Moreno Valle governed the central state from 2011 to 2017 and was currently a federal senator. Opponents alleged that he had manipulated the election to hand power to his wife.
Government agencies and scores of officials, including former President Enrique Pena Nieto, also expressed condolences via statements and social media.
Teams from the State Attorney’s Office, Attorney General’s Office and state Civil Protect personnel were on the scene
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted: ‘I said hello to [Moreno] in the Senate just a few days ago. Those of us who had the opportunity to know them are sad and troubled.’
It was not immediately clear how many people were on board alongside the National Action Party couple who were from a family known as one of the most powerful in Mexico.
However Mexico News Daily reported two other were believed to have died in the crash.
Conservative Alonso became the first female governor of Puebla less than two weeks ago on December 14.
The cause of the accident was still unknown on Monday night
An helicopter of Puebla’s government flew over the scene of the incident as it turned late
The Mexican president tweeted his condolences on Monday, confirming their death
Alonso was the first female governor of Puebla and only the seventh nationwide
Rafael Moreno Valle Rosas became Senator in September and was governor from 2011 to 2017. In 2015 his wife was the First Lady of Puebla and the second highest ranking in her PAN party
The center-right candidate narrowly beat opposition from President Obrador’s favored Miguel Barbosa Huerta on July 1.
Her election triggered a violent and hotly-contested reaction and on December 9 a Federal Electoral Tribunal had to validate the results due to accusations of fraud form her National Regeneration Movement (also known as the Morena party) opponent Luis Miguel Barbosa.
Leftist Barbosa said in an interview with Milenio, that it’s a tragedy and ‘it is up to the authorities to do the same so that the causes of the accident are perfectly clear,’ Animal Politico reported.
The reported he declined to answer what would happen now the pair are gone.
‘It is not the time to make political comments, it is time for solidarity, beyond the political rivalry that I had with both,’ he reportedly said. ‘I do not want to give an opinion on the succession, it’s time to be supportive.’
The couple celebrated their 14th anniversary this year and shared a dog
Once Congress appoints an interim governor, an election – lasting between three and five months – must be announced within 10 days.
Federal electoral institute official Benito Nacif confirmed it would happen.
The fact the accident occurred just days after Alonso – who celebrated her birthday only one week ago – took office triggered speculation of foul play on social media, Reuters reported.
A number of Mexican politicians have died in aircraft accidents in the past few years, including federal interior ministers in 2008 and 2011.
Both were members of the PAN.
BBC News reported that 13 people died earlier this year when a minister’s helicopter crashed into a crowd. The minister survived.
From 2015, Puebla First Lady Alonso became second in the power structure of the party behind her husband.
Moreno became a federal senator in September. He shared the same name as his father who was Governor of Puebla from 1969 to 1972.
The couple married in 2004, celebrated their 14th anniversary this January and shared a dog.