The Lasting Wellstone Legacy

By KBJR News 1

October 25, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2012 at 11:08 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) -It can be difficult to grasp what happened in the skies above the Northland on October 25th, 2002.

"The identification number of the plane that went down two miles southeast of Eveleth, Minnesota, matched the serial number of Senator Wellstone's Plane," a spokesperson said addressing the media on October 25th of that year.

Senator Paul Wellstone and his group were en route to a friend's funeral when their plane crashed just short of the Eveleth-Virginia airport.

"The reports are there were no survivors," the spokesperson added in a somber tone.

It was a gloomy, dreary autumn day made even more somber.

"To say anyone survived the crash was kind of nill," said Gary Ulman, airport manager at Taconite Aviation.

Ulman was the first to spot the wreckage. Ulman took to the air after becoming concerned the plane radioed its intent to land, but it never did.

"As I got closer, I said this isn't right," Ulman recollected as he flew his plane near the airport. "I got closer and closer, then I finally saw it, this isn't good."

The crash site is two miles from the airport approach, it's symbolized by a stone memorials honoring the victims. But family and friends of Senator Paul Wellstone say he should be remembered by his living legacy than the day he died.

The Wellstone legacy can be traced back to the Progressive Senator's passion to serve the public. A passion, and man honored during a memorial event this month in St. Paul.

"That special bond between Paul and the people he represented was unbreakable through the end of his life and his career," Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said addressing the audience.

Wellstone's career took shape over the span of 30 years, starting as a college professor to his unlikely US Senate election upset.

"He was an outstanding united states senator and a rising national leader," Gov. Dayton said."

Probably the biggest test for the US Senator came just weeks before his death when he delivered his opposition to President Bush's Iraq War Resolution. Senator Wellstone stuck with what he believed in despite heavy pressure from both sides of the aisle.

A move that didn't surprise his closest supporters.

"My dad had that quote never separate your words from the deeds you
do, that was pretty evident during his whole life before he was US Senator," David Wellstone, Senator Wellstone's oldest son said during the memorial event in St. Paul.

A life remembered as someone who had a higher calling in life.

"If you're asking me professionally what he'd be doing, the sky would probably be the limit," said Senator Wellstone's youngest son, Mark. "Because there isn't a voice like his out there right now."

The NTSB pointed at pilot failure for the plane crash.

The families of the victims won a $25 million settlement with the charter flight's company.

Friday night on the KBJR 6 & Range 11 News at Ten, we continue our look at the lasting Wellstone Legacy and its impact on today's community leaders.

Kevin Jacobsen
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