Rivera Plane Owner: Pilot Must Have Had Heart Attack

Christian Esquino Nunez says he is not to blame

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 13, 2012 8:08 AM CST

(Newser) – Christian Esquino Nunez, an executive of the company that owned the plane that Jenni Rivera died in, says it's "fair" for authorities to look into his shady past. But, though he was once imprisoned in the US for two years for falsifying maintenance records of planes he bought from the Mexican government in the 1990s and 2000s before selling them to US pilots, he tells the Los Angeles Times that the jet Rivera was flying in had been maintained perfectly. The 78-year-old pilot must have had a heart attack or become incapacitated, he theorizes.

Even so, Esquino insists he "couldn't think of anyone more qualified" to fly than pilot Miguel Perez Soto, who was licensed to fly in Mexico; authorities say, however, his license was limited in the US. Esquino also says Rivera was not on a charter flight; she was taking a free demo flight because she was in the process of purchasing the Learjet for $250,000 from Starwood Management. Though the plane was damaged in a 2005 accident, Esquino calls the accident "minor" (aviation records say the damage was "substantial") and says it had flown more than 1,000 hours since with no problems. Authorities think Esquino is the real head of Starwood, though his sister-in-law is listed as the sole corporate officer—probably due to the numerous legal problems in Esquino's past.

In this picture taken March 8, 2012, Mexican-American singer and reality TV star Jenni Rivera poses during an interview in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
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