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Carnahan pilot reported problem

Gov. Carnahan, son, aide killed in accident

In this story:

'Horrific crash site'

Political ramifications

Clinton, Gore, Bush react

Tragedy affects presidential debate

RELATED STORIES, SITES Downward pointing arrow

HILLSBORO, Missouri (CNN) -- The pilot of Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan's plane -- his son Roger -- told air traffic controllers that he had instrument trouble, CNN has learned.

Sources familiar with the crash investigation said Tuesday that Roger Carnahan reported a problem with the instruments used to control the aircraft during bad weather.

The controllers apparently were trying to help Roger Carnahan get the plane to an airport on Monday when it crashed about 30 miles south of St. Louis, the sources said. Both Carnahans and a top campaign aide were killed.

Investigators said they don't yet know what caused the crash but that the weather at the time of the crash was rainy and foggy.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Carol Carmody described a debris field full of tiny pieces of wreckage scattered across rough terrain. Assessing the crash site was so difficult, Carmody said, that one investigator surveyed the area by helicopter.

CNN covers statements from Carnahan's press secretary and Missouri's new acting governor Tuesday morning

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Early Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson was named acting governor under the terms of the Missouri Constitution.

Nine federal investigators arrived later from the National Transportation Safety Board to help with the survey of the crash site.

'Horrific crash site'

Capt. Ed Kemp of the Jefferson County Sheriff's department said wreckage from the crashed twin-engine Cessna was "in very small pieces because it's a heavily wooded and rocky terrain and it's spread over a large area."

He said witnesses told investigators the plane "sounded like it was in a dive, they heard a loud explosion," which lit the sky.

"It was a pretty horrific crash site," said Sheriff Glen Boyer, also with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Boyer said his department had asked the FBI to send its recovery team to the site, "simply because of the terrain and the amount of debris spread out over a several-hundred-square-yard area."

Political ramifications

Carnahan, who was locked in a very close U.S. Senate race, was killed along with his son and senior campaign adviser Chris Sifford as they flew to a campaign event in New Madrid, Missouri. There were no survivors.

Carnahan had served as governor since 1993. The governor had been viewed nationally as one of the Democrats' best hopes to oust GOP Sen. John Ashcroft in the party's bid to reclaim control of the Senate from Republicans who won a majority in 1994.

Democrats need to win five seats to regain the Senate majority.

Carol Carmody
NTSB spokeswoman Carol Carmody says the first priority of the investigation is to recover remains  

In a statement released by Ashcroft's office, campaign manager David Ayres said, "Out of respect for Gov. Carnahan and his family we've suspended the campaign indefinitely. We're suspending all campaign advertising and canceling Sen. Ashcroft's appearances, effective immediately."

But Carnahan's name will remain on the ballot because -- by law -- it is too late to change it, according Missouri Secretary of State Rebecca M. Cook.

Under the rules, the Democratic nominee named to replace Carnahan would have to run as a write-in candidate, a difficult prospect at best.

Clinton, Gore, Bush react

Calling from the Middle East peace summit in Egypt, President Bill Clinton telephoned Carnahan's widow, Jean, to offer his condolences.

Vice President Al Gore and wife Tipper Gore released a written statement saying, "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy ... Governor Carnahan represented the best in public service. More than this, Mel was a good friend."

In his written statement, Gore's presidential opponent --Texas Gov. George W. Bush -- said he was "fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know Governor Carnahan through our work as governors. Mel was a thoughtful, distinguished man who was dedicated to quality education and excellence in public service.

Earlier, Gore and Bush aides along with officials for Tuesday's presidential debate consulted with Carnahan campaign aides about whether to postpone the event.

The Carnahan campaign urged participants to go ahead with the debate saying, Carnahan "would have wanted it." Instead, debate officials were to allow each candidate time to express their condolences about the tragedy before the debate begins.

Tragedy affects presidential debate

Although Carnahan's death darkened the mood at Washington University in nearby St. Louis, the site of Tuesday night's presidential debate between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush, debate officials said the event would go on as planned.

Postponing the debate was deemed too expensive, but both campaigns offered their condolences.

CNN National Correspondents Bob Franken and Gary Tuchman contributed to this report.

Missouri heavyweights slug it out in heated Senate race
September 28, 2000
Missouri Senate race matches two political 'titans'
July 19, 2000

RELATED SITES: - Mel Carnahan for U.S. Senate
Missouri Governor's Office
AirNav: St Louis Downtown - Parks Airport
Jefferson County Sheriffs Department, Missouri Channel 4 St. Louis
Missouri Democratic Party

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