MEXICO CITY – A small plane crashed in a wealthy Mexico City neighborhood on Tuesday, killing the nation’s powerful interior secretary and at least seven others, and setting dozens of cars ablaze.
Juan Camilo Mourino, 37, was one of President Felipe Calderon’s closest advisers, but has been embroiled in scandal since taking office in the midst of Mexico’s violent fight against drug cartels. He was in charge of the country’s security.
“With his death, Mexico has lost a great Mexican, intelligent, loyal and committed to his ideals and his country,” Calderon said. “I ask all Mexicans that they don’t allow any event, no matter how difficult or painful, to weaken them in the pursuit of a better Mexico.”
Presidential spokesman Max Cortazar said Mourino and a group of advisers were returning from the city of San Luis Potosi when the plane went down.
Officials say the crash appeared to be an accident, but Calderon said his administration would await the results of a full investigation.
The Learjet 24 set fire to about two dozen vehicles on a street in the posh Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood in an area filled with tall office buildings. Officials evacuated about 1,800 people from area offices.
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said all those aboard the plane were killed and that more people may have died on the ground.
Hundreds of police, firefighters and soldiers swarmed the scene, which was littered with the burned-out hulks of vehicles and pieces of what appeared to be bodies.
Eight bodies were recovered and at least 40 people were injured, seven of them seriously.
Civil aviation officials were investigating the cause of the crash. Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez said no distress signal had been registered from the plane.