Sen. Paul Wellstone Dead in Plane Crash

Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, one of the foremost liberals in Congress, was killed in a plane crash in northern Minnesota on Friday along with his wife, daughter and five others, campaign officials said.

Wellstone, 58, had been in the final days of a tight battle for re-election in a race that could determine control of the Senate.

The twin-engine plane went down in freezing rain and light snow near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis.

Wellstone was on his way to the funeral of the father of a state lawmaker.

"It's just terrible. Say a prayer," said Lisa Pattni, an aide who was at the crash site.

All eight people aboard the plane were killed, said Greg Martin, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. Campaign officials confirmed the victims included Wellstone's wife, Sheila, and daughter Marcia.

In political terms, Wellstone's death threw the battle for the Senate into uncharted territory. It was unclear whether his name will remain on the ballot with Election Day less than two weeks away.

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 Coleman spokesman, Ben Whitney, said: "Our prayers are with the Wellstone family. That's all I'm going to say."

Two years ago, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day while running for the Senate.

Carnahan's 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 election to a full term against Republican Jim Talent.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)