JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Democratic Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson was appointed acting governor early Tuesday morning after a private plane carrying Gov. Mel Carnahan crashed just south of St. Louis.
"It is with great sadness that we report that earlier (Monday) evening a, plane believed to be carrying Governor Mel Carnahan, his son Roger, and senior campaign adviser, Chris Sifford, went down in Jefferson County," said Carnahan's spokesman Jerry Nachtigal through tears at a 2:30 a.m. news conference. "There were no survivors."
Nachtigal said the identities of the passengers had not been confirmed, but he said the governor's staff offered Sifford's and Carnahan's families condolences.
The Associated Press reported that a relative of Sifford confirmed the passengers were the governor, his son, and Sifford.
The governor, locked in a tight Senate race against Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., was flying to New Madrid, Mo., to campaign when the plane went down amid fog and rain.
Wilson took over as acting governor at 2:13 a.m. after a vote by the disability board, a panel of the state's leading office holders who convene when the governor cannot fulfill his duties.
"The disability board has met because of the inability of Gov. Carnahan to communicate," Wilson said. "I am acting governor at this time. I would like to ask permission to lean on five million Missourian's shoulders."
Ashcroft's campaign issued a statement suspending all of its campaign activities indefinitely and cancelled its commercials.
Carnahan's name will still appear on the November ballot. Jim Grebing, aspokesman for Secretary of State Bekki Cook, said the deadline to change the ballot was Oct. 13.
Carnahan, 66, began his political life in 1960 as a municipal judge in Rolla. He also served two terms in the state House of Representatives, rising to the level of Majority Floor Leader.
In 1980, Carnahan, a Baptist deacon, became state treasurer and in 1988 waselected lieutenant governor. His second term as Missouri's governor was nearly complete.
"Governor Carnahan always believed that public service was a noble calling,"Nachtigal said. "His belief in the greatness of the citizens of this state, especially the children, was unwavering."
Carnahan said he believed his greatest accomplishment as governor was a $315million tax increase to fund education. The bill also established the state's current funding formula.
Sifford, 36, became Carnahan's communications director after a career as ajournalist. Last year, he rose to chief of staff before moving on as senior adviser to Carnahan's run for the Senate.
Roger Carnahan, a 44-year-old lawyer, was reportedly piloting the twin-engine Cessna 335 at the time of the crash.