GOLDMAN, Mo. Vowing to do his job with "style and grace," Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson officially took over leadership of the state Wednesday, succeeding Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was killed in an airplane crash.
Wilson, a Democrat, was sworn in as Missouri's 52nd governor at a brief ceremony after midnight. It was attended by his family, Carnahan's staff and state lawmakers. He will serve out the rest of Carnahan's term, which ends Jan. 8.
"The people of Missouri have my pledge that I will do everything I can ... to make Missouri as productive as possible and a great place to live," said Wilson, who became lieutenant governor in 1992 and was re-elected in 1996.
The swearing-in ceremony came after the Jefferson County medical examiner identified remains removed from the crash site as Carnahan, 66, and his chief aide, Chris Sifford, 37. Still unidentified was the third victim, the presumed pilot, believed to be Roger Carnahan, the governor's 44-year-old son.
Mel Carnahan had been locked with Republican Sen. John Ashcroft in one of the nation's hardest fought Senate races. Carnahan's name will stay on the Nov. 7 ballot because the deadline to change it has passed. If Carnahan receives the most votes, Wilson can appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election, in November 2002.
The two-term Democratic governor was on his way to a rally in New Madrid when the Cessna 335 crashed Monday night into a hilly area south of St. Louis in rain and fog.
The twin-engine, six-seater was at 6,500 feet when the pilot reported a problem with the gyroscope, a dashboard instrument that helps the pilot with basic orientation and sense of horizon, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The plane disappeared from radar a short time later, she said.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday combed through rubble and used a Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter to retrace the plane's path. They also examined witness accounts and weather and radar data. The investigation could take months.
On Wednesday, searchers found a football-sized piece of the plane's engine more than a quarter-mile away from most of the plane's wreckage an unusually far distance, said NTSB spokeswoman Carol Carmody.
FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said there were no previous accidents, incidents or service difficulty reports on the 1980 Cessna. Roger Carnahan, who received his pilot's license in 1988, had logged more than 1,600 hours of flying experience.
Mel Carnahan won his first public election at age 26 as a municipal judge in his hometown of Rolla. He was elected to the Missouri House two years later and served two terms before becoming state treasurer.
In 1988, Carnahan was elected lieutenant governor. Four years later, he won the governor's office in a landslide and was re-elected in 1996.
Stunned Missourians on Tuesday showed their grief by filling spots at the governor's mansion in Jefferson City with notes, lighted candles and flowers. Wilson ordered all flags at state buildings flown at half-staff until Nov. 15.
"He was a great man, a great governor. It's a big loss for the entire state," said Mike Moscato, who brought his 10-year-old daughter to the mansion.
White House officials said President Clinton planned to attend a memorial service outside the Capitol scheduled for Friday.
On the Net:
Missouri State Government: http://www.gov.state.mo.us
National Governors' Association: http://www.nga.org/subtocnga.htm
John Ashcroft campaign: http://www.johnashcroft.com
Mel Carnahan campaign: http://www.carnahan2000.com