SÃO PAULO — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has declared three days of mourning after presidential candidate, Eduardo Campos, was killed in a plane crash in the port city of Santos, southeast Brazil.
In a statement President Rousseff said she would also suspend her election campaign for the same period.
Flags are flying at half-mast on government buildings across Brazil.
A further six people died and at least ten others were injured when the small private jet flying from Rio de Janeiro to the coastal city of Santos, some 50km southeast of São Paulo, crashed into a residential area after attempting to land at a nearby air base in neighbouring Guarujá.
Eyewitnesses say the plane was already on fire, and possibly upside down, before it hit the ground.
The Santos Fire Department told the Anadolu Agency (AA) that emergency services were continuing to search for the aircraft’s two black boxes, as well as removing bodies and human remains from the wreckage.
(UPDATE: The black boxes of the Cessnar 560XL has now been found and the bodies have been taken to Brasília and São Paulo, respectively, for analysis and identification.)
Debris was strewn across an entire residential block, of which at least ten buildings are now known to have been damaged in the crash. An investigation has been opened into the incident.
‘Country in mourning’
Throughout Wednesday, senior figures across the Brazilian political spectrum paid tribute to a “promising politician” who, at 49, still had much of his political career ahead of him.
Rousseff spoke of her profound sadness at the news: “Brazil is in mourning. Today we lost a great Brazilian, Eduardo Campos,” she wrote on her official Twitter account.
“Eduardo and I went back a long way, during [former president] Lula’s government, the 2006 and 2010 campaigns, and during my time in office,” she continued, describing Campos as “an exemplary father and husband.”
Rousseff also made an emotional televised address, where she praised the “great politician and great democrat”.
Campos was the youthful, pro-business yet left-leaning presidential candidate for the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). His vice presidential running mate, Marina Silva, had previously run for the presidency on the Green Party ticket in the 2010 general elections, when she came third with over 19 percent of the vote.
Silva, who had reportedly decided not to board the plane and instead travel to São Paulo state from Rio de Janeiro by road, said later on Wednesday that she had learned to “respect, admire and trust” her running mate over the past 10 months of active political partnership.
“The image I wish to keep of him is of our goodbye yesterday: full of happiness, dreams, promises and the spirit that I hope will support his family and all of us,” Silva told reporters, visibly shaken.
Marina Silva to step up?
The PSB now has ten days to nominate a new presidential candidate, with many commentators predicting that Silva will step up to the role.
Although divisive, her familiar face, solid performance at the 2010 elections, and strong backing from Evangelical members of the electorate, could lure votes away from both Rousseff and Aécio Neves, a centre-right candidate from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).
The unusual pairing had bridged a gap between the two other more traditional rivals.
However, Campos had been still struggling to connect with the electorate, and was not previously well known outside his native Pernambuco state, where he enjoyed considerable success as governor.
According to recent surveys of voter intentions, Campos was polling at around 10 percent, but trailing well behind both Rousseff, who is vying for a second term in office, and Aécio Neves.
But although his chances of winning the 2014 elections had been extremely remote, his young age and consistent, methodical and composed style during interviews at the start of his campaign had led many to predict a far greater role in future elections.