Leading salsa musician Jose “Cheo” Feliciano, 78, has died in a traffic accident in his native Puerto Rico.
The singer, who inspired a love of the up-tempo dance music in generations of musicians and fans, was also considered a master of the more leisurely “bolero” style of dance music popular on the island.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced that the US territory would observe three days of mourning to mark the death of “one of its most acclaimed voices”.
The head of transit police on the island, Jorge Hernandez Pena, has told a local newspaper that the singer died before dawn on Thursday when his car struck an electric pole on a road in Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan.
“He lost control on the curve and took the impact when he hit a fixed object,” Pena the El Nuevo Dia daily.
Feliciano had not been wearing a seat belt and was killed when his head hit the windshield of his green Jaguar sports car, Pena added.
Local television showed footage of the car with its front end totally demolished from the crash.
News of the famed salsero’s death traveled quickly via social media, with laments and expressions of disbelief posted on Twitter.
“I am crying for a brother who has departed before we did,” Venezuelan writer Oscar D’Leon wrote in a Spanish language tweet.
“Almighty God, receive my brother Cheo Feliciano into your kingdom,” D’Leon wrote.
Officials have reportedly found no drugs or alcohol in the car.
The singer’s widow, Socorro “Coco” Prieto Leon, told reporters that Feliciano had been at a casino on Wednesday night.
Feliciano, a member of the Fania All Stars, was one of the most recognized salsa singers, with hits including Una en un milln, Mi promesa, and Contigo aprendi.