New Augusta, MS Congressman Dies In Crash, Aug 1989


New Augusta, Miss. (AP) - U.S. Rep. LARKIN SMITH was found dead today in the wreckage of a small plane that crashed in a forest, authorities said.
The twin-engine plane carrying the Mississippi Republican and his pilot disappeared from radar screens about 9:30 p.m. Sunday and was spotted early today from a Customs aircraft 25 miles from Hattiesburg, authorities said.
Searchers trekked through heavy woods to reach the site near the community of Janice, removing the bodies of the freshman congressman and his pilot, CHUCK VIERLING, from the wreckage, said acting Harrison County Sheriff Farley Rhodes.
The cause of the crash was under investigation.
SMITH, 45, who had succeeded Republican Trent Lott, now a U.S. Senator, was returning home to Gulfport from Hattiesburg, where he had thrown out the first ball at a youth baseball tournament, said press secretary Charles Busby.
"The plane was all to pieces," said Perry County deputy sheriff Gene McRee. "It appeared it centered a big pine tree. There was no way anyone could have survived." McRee said there was no fire.
SMITH was the second congressman in a week to die in a plane crash.
Rep. Mickey Leland, D-Texas, was killed when his plane crashed Aug. 7 on a flight to a remote village in Ethiopia. Searchers on Monday began efforts to recover the bodies of Leland and 15 others from the wreckage which was found Sunday.
Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, D-Miss., said he had spoken to SMITH about Leland's death the night before the crash and had warned his colleague to be careful traveling.
SMITH'S plane took off in clear weather at 9:10 p.m. for the 90-mile trip to Gulfport, said John Walker, a spokesman for the congressman.
Busby said authorities got a call about 10:05 p.m. from a resident who reported seeing a plane go down in the heavily wooded area. Dozens of military, civilian and law enforcement rescuers joined the search in the Desoto National Forest.
In his seven months in Congress, SMITH, a former police chief known as a law-and-order candidate, co-sponsored legislation to strengthen drug laws. He objected to drug czar William Bennett's ban on imports of semiautomatic assault weapons.
Survivors include his wife, Sheila, a daughter and a grandson.

Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1989-08-14