American Politician Plane Fatalities Fast Facts
This is a list of prominent American politicians killed in plane crashes.
May 1, 1928 – New York Rep. Thaddeus C. Sweet (R). Sweet is killed in an airplane accident in Broome County, New York.
October 28, 1947 – Oregon Governor Earl Snell (R). Snell dies in a plane crash during stormy weather near Klamath Falls, Oregon.
January 25, 1962 – Montana Governor Donald Nutter (R). Nutter dies in a plane crash during a snowstorm.
October 16, 1972 – House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, Louisiana (D) and Rep. Nick Begich, Alaska (D). Both are aboard a plane that vanishes from the radar in bad weather over Alaska. The wreckage is never found.
December 8, 1972 – Illinois Rep. George W. Collins (D). Collins is killed when a United Airlines jetliner plane crashes on approach to Chicago’s Midway Airport. Forty-four others are killed. Collins’ widow, Cardiss Collins, succeeds her husband in the House.
February 14, 1975 – California Rep. Jerry Pettis (R). Pettis, a former military pilot, dies while flying his private plane. The aircraft crashes into a mountain near Banning, California. His wife, Shirley N. Pettis Roberson, replaces him in the House five days later.
August 3, 1976 – Missouri Rep. Jerry Litton (D). Litton is killed in a plane crash in northwest Missouri. He was en route to a victory celebration after winning the state’s Democratic senate nomination.
September 1, 1983 – Georgia Rep. Larry McDonald (D). McDonald is killed when Korean Air Lines Flight 007 is shot down by a Russian fighter.
April 8, 1988 – Montana Secretary of State Jim Waltermire (R). Waltermire is aboard a twin-engine plane that crashes as it approaches Helena’s airport in light snow. At the time, Waltermire is a Republican gubernatorial candidate.
August 7, 1989 – Texas Rep. Mickey Leland (D). Leland, a Texas Democrat who chairs the House Select Committee on Hunger, is killed when his plane crashes during a trip to inspect relief efforts in Ethiopia.
August 13, 1989 – Mississippi Rep. Larkin Smith (R). Smith is a passenger on a Cessna 152 that crashes into woods in southeastern Mississippi. Pilot error in hazy conditions is ruled the probable cause of the crash.
April 4, 1991 – Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz (R). A collision between a plane and a helicopter kills Heinz, a three-term Republican senator and heir to the Heinz food fortune.
April 5, 1991 – Texas Sen. John Tower (R). Tower, his daughter and 21 other people, including NASA astronaut Manley “Sonny” Carter Jr., are killed in a commuter plane crash near Brunswick, Georgia.
April 19, 1993 – South Dakota Gov. George Mickelson (R). Mickelson and seven others are killed when a state-owned turboprop plane crashes into a grain silo while trying to make an emergency landing near Dubuque, Iowa.
April 3, 1996 – US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. A US Air Force jetliner carrying Brown and American business executives crashes into a mountain in Croatia, killing all 35 people aboard.
October 16, 2000 – Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D). Carnahan, his son and an aide are killed when their small plane crashes in bad weather. He is elected to the US Senate posthumously, and his widow is appointed to take his seat.
October 25, 2002 – Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone (D). Wellstone, his wife, daughter, three staff members, and two pilots are killed when their small plane crashes in Eveleth, Minnesota.
August 9, 2010 – Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R). Stevens is killed in a plane crash near Dillingham, Alaska. Five people are killed, and four survive, including former NASA chief Sean O’Keefe.