A Mexican governor and her senator husband have been killed in a helicopter crash in the central state of Puebla.
Martha Erika Alonso, a senior opposition figure and the new governor of Puebla, died with Rafael Moreno Valle, a federal senator and former governor of the same state, when their helicopter came down on Monday not far from Puebla city, local media reported.
“My deepest condolences to the relatives of Senator Rafael Moreno Valle and his wife, governor of Puebla Martha Erika Alonso,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wrote on Twitter, adding that his government would open an investigation.
Marko Cortes, president of the couple’s centre-right National Action Party (PAN), tweeted that he deeply lamented the fatal accident. He added that the party was in mourning.
Lamento profundamente el accidente fatal en el que perdieron la vida Martha Ericka Alonso, Rafael Moreno Valle y otras personas. Que descansen en paz. @AcciónNacional está de luto.
— Marko Cortés (@MarkoCortes) December 24, 2018
Alonso took office as governor less than two weeks ago after a local election that was hotly contested with Lopez Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement, or MORENA. An electoral tribunal had to validate the results months after the vote amid accusations of fraud.
Moreno Valle governed the state from 2011 to 2017.
“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,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter.
It was not immediately clear if the pilot died or what had caused the crash.
TV footage showed the remains of an aircraft in flames, a plume of smoke and people who showed up at what appeared to be the scene.
The Reforma newspaper reported that the helicopter took off from Puebla city and crashed in Huejotzingo, about 30km away.
Benito Nacif, an official at the federal electoral institute, said Puebla’s Congress would have to appoint an interim governor until new elections could be held for a successor to serve out the remainder of Alonso’s term.
A number of Mexican politicians have died in aircraft accidents in the past few years, including federal interior ministers in 2008 and 2011. The latter two were also the members of the PAN.
In February, a military helicopter carrying top Mexican officials crashed while assessing damage from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the southern state of Oaxaca. The crash-landing killed at least 13 people on the ground who had apparently been waiting to greet the officials who survived the crash unharmed, as did the crew.