Sen. Paul Wellstone Killed in Minn. Plane Crash

July 7, 2008 - 8:29 PM

(4th Add: Includes comments from President Bush.)

(CNSNews.com) - A private plane reportedly chartered by Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) crashed Friday in Eveleth, Minn., near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport in the northern part of the state, campaign officials said.

Plane crash siteWellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marsha, three campaign workers and two pilots apparently died on impact, reports said. A transportation source confirmed that the tail number on the plane that crashed does match the plane Wellstone chartered.

The weather conditions - freezing snow, light rain and light fog - may have contributed to the crash. Wellstone and his family were reportedly heading to Minnesota to attend a funeral for a colleague and planned to campaign afterwards.

"The Department of Transportation has confirmed that the identification number on the tail of the plane that went down southeast of Evelyth, Minnesota matched the serial number of Senator Wellstone's plane," said Collin McGinnis, Wellstone's chief of staff.

"The reports are that there were no survivors. We are shocked and saddened by this horrible news. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who were on the plane," McGinnis said.

Former Vice President and Minnesota Sen. Walter Mondale called Wellstone "one of the most valiant public servants and leaders I've ever known."

"He had a very good mind, but he also had a honest mind. And he served what he believed in no matter what the challenge. He also had a great heart, and he served right up until this morning to help change this country and protect the decent spirit of this nation," Mondale said.

"And he had something else - he had his wife Sheila and together they made one of the most impressive public couples in America. They had a wonderful family, and together they helped this state and America so much," he added.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had been campaigning with Wellstone, said the deceased senator was "a man of enormous ability, but most of all he was a caring person. He was really a special person, a very unique man."

"We admired him in many fights, but we admired him this fight. He was coming to the people of Minnesota that he loved and he wanted their support so he could go and return to the United States Senate and fight for them. We'll miss you, Paul, and we'll never forget you," Kennedy said.

One of Wellstone's Republican Senate colleagues, Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico said Wellstone will be missed in the Senate.

"He was just absolutely marvelous. If you ever wanted him to do anything he would jump to it and get it done. Just a hard charging, fast-talking, absolutely wonderful human being and he will be missed without question. It's pathetic that he would have to die tragically," Domenici told the Fox News Channel from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

President Bush, meanwhile, called Wellstone a "plain-spoken fellow" who gave his best to his state and the country. Bush spoke from his Texas ranch where he was hosting Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"I would like to express my deep condolences for the loss of the Senate," the president said. "And also, I would like to express my condolences to the bereaved family.

"Our prayers and heartfelt sympathy goes to their sons, their loved ones, their friends and the people of Minnesota. Paul Wellstone was a man of deep convictions," Bush said.