The charter plane carrying Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia, three staffers and two pilots, went down in a wooded area near Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport, about 175 miles north of Minneapolis. All eight passengers were confirmed dead. Wellstone was on his way to the funeral of the father of a state lawmaker. The plane, identified as a King Air, is a twin-engine turboprop made by Raytheon.
"He was always passionate, always determined, and he was always cheering for someone else," Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy told CNN, his voice breaking. "He was a wonderful, wonderful person. This is just terrible."
Last February Wellstone announced he had a "mild form" of multiple sclerosis, but said the degenerative neurological disease would not blunt his energy or enthusiasm for political life. And as Wellstone battled for his Senate seat, it was clear he was still very much a force to reckoned with.
Engaged in a tough fight for his third term, Wellstone had recently grabbed a slim lead in the polls over his opponent, former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman. Now, 11 days before Election Day, Wellstone's death throws a chaotic race for control of the Senate into even greater turmoil. Minnesota state law allows Governor Jesse Ventura or the state Democratic Party to replace Wellstone's name on the ballot up until four days before the election. State Democratic leaders said they were confident they would find a replacement, possibly Rebecca Yanisch, the state trade commissioner who unsuccessfully sought a Senate seat in 1990.