Breaking News: Sen. Paul Wellstone Dies in Plane Crash

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn, has died in the crash of a small plane today near the Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport in Minnesota. The plane crashed around 10:20 a.m. Central time.

Wellstone was elected to the Senate in 1990, where he chaired the OSHA Oversight Committee. Recently, Wellstone had been urging OSHA and EPA to regulate reactive chemicals, and made his most recent plea for regulation last week from the Senate floor, just before the Senate adjourned for an election break. (See the following article, "CSB, Sen. Wellstone, Keep Up Pressure on Reactive Chemicals.")

Eight people were reportedly aboard the plane. In addition to Wellstone, his wife, Sheila, and daughter, Marcia, are dead, along with three of his staff members and two crew members. Sheila and Paul Wellstone are survived by sons Mark and David.

The plane, a twin-engine turboprop King Air manufactured by Raytheon Aircraft, crashed as Wellstone was on his way to attend a funeral in a suburb of Minneapolis before making a campaign stop in Duluth.

Calling Wellstone "a good man," a visibly upset Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said, "All of these people had families and they had friends and this is a horrible, horrible thing."

Wellstone was in a hotly contested race for his Senate seat against former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Before the crash, Republicans were optimistic about unseating Wellstone, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, and taking back control of the Senate.

Even Republicans admired Wellstone's deep committment to his principles. President George Bush calling him "a man of deep convictions," said Wellstone was a "plain-spoken fellow who did his best for his state and his country." Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., commended what he called Wellstone's "depth" and "passion," adding, "You knew everything that he was talking about he deeply believed in and deeply cared about. He cared deeply about the people around him."

Wellstone, a former political science professor, had never held an elected office when he defeated incumbent Rudy Boschwitz.

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