Carnahan says dad's legacy prompted family's public service

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Robin Carnahan said the example set by her father, former Gov. Mel Carnahan, prompted her to stay involved in politics even after he and his son, Randy Carnahan, died in a plane crash during a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Mel Carnahan taught his family to stay active in the community and serve where you can, Robin said Thursday during sometimes tearful testimony in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Carnahan family against airplane parts manufacturer Parker Hannifin Corp., of Cleveland.

Mel and Randy Carnahan and the governor's longtime aide, Chris Sifford, died in the Oct. 16, 2000, crash south of St. Louis. The family contends the failure of a part manufactured by Parker Hannifin led to the crash.

"My dad had a favorite quote from St. Paul, 'While you have time, do good,"' said Robin, who plans to run for Missouri Secretary of State next year. Her brother, Russ Carnahan, has announced his candidacy for the 3rd District congressional seat currently held by Dick Gephardt.

Robin Carnahan said her father taught his family to have big dreams and to work to improve the world.

"Dad had no use for people in politics who didn't want to get things done," she said.

Robin said Randy, who was the pilot the night of the plane crash, was a meticulous pilot who often called off flights if the weather wasn't safe.

Robin, who also has a pilot's license, said Randy left a campaign event in St. Louis early on the night of the crash to do a preflight check on the plane, which she said was his normal routine.

Testimony stopped briefly after Carnahan's attorney, Gary Robb, asked her to explain how the loss of her father and brother had affected her life.

"It is not an easy thing to articulate. When the person you want to pick up the phone and call, and you can't ...," she said before briefly breaking down in tears.

In their lawsuit, the Carnahan family claims the part that failed was a vacuum pump, which powered the plane's directional gyroscope and primary attitude indicator -- instruments critical to showing a plane's position in the air. The Carnahans claim the pump's failure left Randy Carnahan "flying blind" and disoriented on the night of the crash.

Parker Hannifin has said none of its components caused the accident.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash found that the primary attitude indicator, which tells a pilot whether the plane is banking and whether the nose is high or low, failed. Investigators also found that bad weather was a contributing factor.

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