GOIANIA, BRAZIL (AP) — Struck with grief, tens of thousands of fans gathered Saturday to pay tribute to Marília Mendonça, one of Brazil's most popular singers who was killed a day earlier in an airplane crash at age 26.
The Latin Grammy winner and four other passengers, including her producer and uncle, perished Friday when their plane crashed while flying from Mendonça's hometown of Goiania in Goias state to Caratinga, a small city in Minas Gerais state north of Rio de Janeiro.
Some mourners arrived as early as Friday night to bid farewell to the country music singer, spending the night outside the large gymnasium in Goiania where Mendonça’s wake was held. People stood in lines for hours Saturday in the sizzling heat, at times taking shelter from the sun under large umbrellas, waiting to pass by her coffin.
“Her, dead, it doesn’t make sense. Everyone likes her,” said Tania Rodrigues, who was in the crowd with her 11-year-old daughter, Rosangela.
Ilsa da Costa Oliveira, wrapped in Brazil's green and yellow flag and holding three red roses in one hand and a CD of Mendonça in the other, spoke of the traits that made the singer so popular: “She is very charitable to the public, to women, to men, children, young people, old people … She’s a good person, humble and charismatic.”
Inside the gymnasium, fans were able to catch a glance of the singer, who was known for her feminist engagement, writing about empowering women and denouncing domestic violence. Some broke down in tears as they passed her open coffin.
The Latin Recording Academy issued a statement saluting “a promising young singer/songwriter,” calling her “the voice of a new generation of sertaneja,” Brazil's country music.
“Marília Mendonça will be sorely missed, but her legacy will live on through her music,” the statement said.
Details about the cause of the accident remained unknown. Photographs and videos Friday showed the plane lying just beneath a waterfall. Earlier in the day, Mendonça had posted a video showing her walking toward the plane, guitar case in hand. She was on her way to a concert.
Associated Press journalist Eraldo Peres reported this story in Goiania and AP writer Diane Jeantet reported from Rio de Janeiro.