Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl whose wish for peace led to a highly publicized tour of the Soviet Union in 1983 as the guest of Yuri V. Andropov, was killed Sunday night along with her father and six other people in a plane crash.
The Bar Harbor Airlines Beechcraft 99 turboprop plane crashed and exploded in the rain half a mile from Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, authorities said.
At daybreak today, officials were still trying to make positive identification of the six passengers and two crew members, but the mother of 13-year-old Samantha said her husband and daughter are dead.
“They haven’t showed up anywhere else,” Jane Smith said in a telephone interview from the family’s home in Manchester. She visited the crash site, she said, adding, “It’s just a pile of ashes.”
The cause of the crash has not been determined.
Samantha attracted worldwide attention two years ago when she wrote to then-Soviet leader Andropov expressing concern about the potential for nuclear war. Kremlin leaders responded by inviting the girl and her parents on a two-week, expenses-paid tour of the Soviet Union.
She and her parents got VIP treatment during the tour but she never met Andropov, who died Feb. 9, 1984. She was widely hailed by some as a symbol of hope for peace; others criticized her as being exploited.
In an evening broadcast, Soviet television paid tribute to Samantha, a commentator saying, “It is difficult to believe that the voice of this wonderful American girl will not sound again.”
Part in TV Series
Jane Smith said her husband and daughter were flying in from Boston after two weeks in England, where Samantha had been filming a part in the weekly ABC-TV action-adventure series “Lime Street,” which was scheduled to begin Sept. 21. She played a daughter of an insurance investigator played by Robert Wagner and had been scheduled to appear in additional episodes.
“Samantha was a special girl. We fell in love with her the first time she walked on the set,” Wagner said in a statement with series producer Jack Kaplan. “She brought a special touch to the work and she touched us.”
After her tour of the Soviet Union, Samantha made dozens of TV appearances, traveled extensively in the United States, went to Japan to address the Children’s International Symposium for the 21st Century and wrote a book about the trip.