Eveleth, MN Senator's Plane Crashes, Oct 2002
DEMOCRATS ALLOWED TO NAME PERSON TO RUN FOR MINNESOTA SEAT.
Eveleth, Minn. (AP) -- Sen. PAUL WELLSTONE, the passionately liberal Democrat whose re-election campaign was vital to control of the Senate, was killed in a plane crash in northern Minnesota Friday along with his wife, daughter and five others.
The crash came 11 days before the election. Stunned party officials said it was too early to discuss replacing WELLSTONE on the ballot. They have seven days to name a replacement.
The twin-engine private plane went down about 10 a.m. in freezing rain and light snow near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis. A pilot in the area said the plane seemed to have veered away from the standard approach to the airport.
"It's just terrible. Say a prayer," said Lisa Pattni, an aide at the crash site.
The wreckage was still smoldering severeal hours after the crash in a wooded, swampy area two miles from the airport and several hundred yards from the closest paved road The National Transportation Safety Board sent a nine-member team to determine the cause of the accident.
WELLSTONE'S death saddened supporters and opponents alike, and it came almost exactly two years after Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash as he campaigned for the Senate.
WELLSTONE, a 58-year-old former college professor and one of the foremost liberals on Capitol Hill, was on his way to a funeral.
All eight people aboard the 11-seat King Air A-100 were killed, said Greg Martin, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The casualties were:
Captain RICHARD CONRY, pilot.
MICHAEL GUESS, co-pilot.
Sen. PAUL WELLSTONE, 58.
SHEILA WELLSTONE, his wife.
MARCIA WELLSTONE, their daughter.
WILL McLAUGHLIN, campaign staff member.
TOM LAPIC, campaign staff member.
MARY McEVOY, campaign staff member.
"Today the state of Minnesota has suffered a deep and penetrating loss," Gov. Jesse Ventura said. "With all of us suffering from the numbing experiences of our nation's recent tragedies, this loss seems especially cruel."
WELLSTONE'S death threw the battle for the Senate into uncharted territory. Before Friday, Democrats held control by a single seat.
Minnesota law allows the governor to fill a vacant Senate seat, but it also allows a political party to pick a replacement if a nominee dies. In this case, the name must be offered by next Thursday.
Two years ago, Carnahan, his son and an aide were killed in a crash three weeks before Election Day. His name remained on the ballot and he beat Republican Sen. John Ashcroft. Carnahan's widow, Jean, was appointed to serve in his place and is now seeking a full term against Republican Jim Talent. Mrs. Carnahan canceled campaign appearances Friday, saying in a statement that WELLSTONE'S death was "heartbreaking news."
WELLSTONE was up against Republican Norm Coleman, a former mayor of St. Paul and President Bush's choice to challenge the two-term incumbent.
A statewide poll of 1,000 likely voters last week gave WELLSTONE a slight lead, 47 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 points.
Coleman immediately suspended campaign activities. He said he, his wife and father were flying to a campaign stop in the same part of Minnesota when they learned of WELLSTONE'S death.
"We prayed on the plane. We hugged, the staff cried," Coleman said.
"The people of Minnesota have experienced a terrible, unimaginable tragedy."
WELLSTONE had leased the Beech King Air turboprop for the flight to nearby Virginia for the funeral of state Sen. Tom Rukavina's father.
The pilots called the Eveleth-Virginia airport to get clearance for landing when they were about seven miles out and they reported no problems, said Gary Ulman, who was on duty at the airport at the time.
When the plane didn't land, Ulman said, he took off in a plane to search for it. He soon saw smoke.
At the site, FBI spokesman Paul McCabe, said there was no indication the crash was related to terrorism. He also said it would take time to recover the bodies.
Ventura said flags at state buildings would be flown at half-staff through Nov. 5. In Texas, Bush called WELLSTONE "a man of deep convictions."
"He was a plainspoken fellow who did his best for his state and for his country," the president said. "May the good Lord bless those who grieve."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said WELLSTONE was the "soul of the Senate. He was one of the most noble and courageous men I have ever known."
Post-Standard Syracuse New York 2002-10-26