Santos (Brazil): Brazil`s presidential race is in stunned disarray after one of the top three contenders was killed on the campaign trail when a small plane carrying him and aides crashed into a residential area in this port city.
Socialist politician Eduardo Campos and the six other people aboard the aircraft died in the accident yesterday, which came less than two months ahead of the October 04 Presidential Election.
President Dilma Rousseff, who opinion polls say leads the race, declared three days of official mourning for Campos and said she was suspending her campaign during that time.
The other main candidate, Aecio Neves, also said he was putting his campaign on hold.
"Brazil is in mourning and reeling from a death that took the life of a promising young politician," Rousseff said in a solemn address. She said Campos had had "an extremely promising future ahead."
The 49-year-old scion of a powerful political family from the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Campos was a fixture on the Brazilian political scene since his youth, having served as state and federal representative and also as Pernambuco`s governor.
He had been allied with Rousseff and her Workers Party but broke away ahead of the presidential campaign. Opinion polls had said Campos was running in third place, behind Rousseff and Neves.
The candidate, four members of his campaign staff and two pilots were travelling from Rio de Janeiro to the city of Guaruja when the Cessna 560XL went down in nearby Santos around 10 am (local time).
Aeronautical officials said the plane was trying to land in bad weather, although the Globo television network broadcast interviews with witnesses who said the aircraft was in flames before it crashed among apartment buildings. An investigation has been opened to determine the exact cause, Brazil`s aeronautical agency said.
The accident sent shock waves through Brazil`s political class and had pundits speculating about how it might affect the election.
Rousseff, the hand-picked successor of ex-president Silva, has seen her popularity flag in recent months amid popular dissatisfaction with slowing growth, high taxes and poor public services although she has remained the strongest candidate.