Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan dies in plane crash

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-Update: Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan dies in plane crash


GOLDMAN, Mo. -An airplane believed to be carrying Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan crashed in a hilly wooded area south of St. Louis last night, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said.

Carnahan and a campaign adviser were on board the plane piloted by one of Carnahan's sons, officials said. Relatives of the campaign adviser said all three were killed.

But Jerry Nachtigal, the governor's spokesman in Jefferson City, declined to comment on televised reports that Carnahan, 66, was aboard the downed aircraft. "A plane has crashed in Jefferson County, and that's all we know," Nachtigal said.

Carnahan, a two-term Democratic governor, was headed for a fund-raising event in New Madrid as part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by freshman Republican John Ashcroft. The close race is considered crucial to Democrats' efforts to regain a majority in the Senate.

The governor was planning to attend tonight's final presidential debate, in St. Louis, between Vice President Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

At 11 p.m., the governor's office called the lieutenant governor and the state treasurer to return to the Statehouse, in Jefferson City, immediately for an emergency, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Both Carnahan and his son, Randy, are licensed pilots. Randy Carnahan normally flies the campaign airplane on political events.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said an airplane crashed in a hilly, wooded area. The patrol said the debris from the crash was scattered, making identification of the airplane difficult.

"We found wreckage in very small pieces spread over a large area. We have found some remains we cannot identify at this point," Kemp said. He said it was unclear whether the remains were those of one or more people.

Sheriff Glenn Boyer said the airplane's tail number had not been determined.

The airplane went down about 7:30 p.m. near Goldman, about 25 miles from St. Louis. The area is thick with trees, scattered farm houses and fields. The sheriff's office said witnesses reported hearing an airplane go into a dive and seeing a fireball.

Light rain was falling and heavy fog encased the area as 100 searchers hunted for wreckage.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Tim McDonald said the governor's security staff members were at the crash site because they had not heard from Carnahan, who was expected in New Madrid, and "tensions were high" that it might be the governor's plane.

Carnahan is an Air Force veteran and congressman's son who had served as a state legislator, treasurer and lieutenant governor before winning the governorship in 1992 and getting reelected in 1996, both times with the biggest percentages of any Democratic candidate for the state's top job in the last 30 years. He and his wife, Jean, have four children and two grandchildren.

-- (smarty@wannabe.one), October 17, 2000

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