EVELETH (AP) -- A makeshift memorial adorned with roses and a picture of a smiling Paul Wellstone rests in a clearing about 100 feet from where a plane crashed killing the U.S. senator and seven others.
Just two days after the crash, relatives of the victims visited the site Sunday, one leaving behind the picture of Wellstone with Will McLaughlin, a campaign staffer who also was killed. Meanwhile, investigators -- still puzzled as to what caused the crash -- used large sifters to sort through ashes, searching for clues.
Crews took 17 family members through a marshy, wooded area to the site, where they stayed for about a half-hour. Authorities said the relatives would not be made available to the media.
Investigators said Sunday they still didn't know why the plane was heading south, away from the airport when it crashed into the heavily forested area about 2 1/2 miles away.
Carol Carmody, acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators reconstructed the flight based on information from radar, tapes and air traffic controllers.
At 10:01 a.m., controllers cleared the plane to approach the Eveleth airport. The pilot was then advised of light icing between 9,000 and 11,000 feet. At 10:10, the plane began its descent. Controllers cleared the pilot for an east-west approach to the airport at 10:18 -- the last exchange with the pilot.
"Everything had been completely normal up until that time," Carmody said. "There was no evidence on the controller's part or from the pilot's voice that there was any difficulty. No reported problems or expressed concern."
A minute later, radar showed the aircraft heading west but drifting slightly south and slowing down. At 10:21, the plane was at 1,800 feet when it dropped off radar. The angle of descent was 25 degrees, steeper than usual, Carmody said.
"We don't know why the turn was occurring," she said.
The plane had de-icing equipment and Carmody said investigators were trying to determine whether it was operating correctly.
Outside experts have speculated that the weather -- including the possibility of ice buildup on the wings -- could have been a factor in the crash. Another potential factor, they said, was the small airport's relatively limited instrument landing system, which tells pilots whether they're left or right of the proper flight path, but not whether they're too high or too low.
Carmody refused to speculate on the cause. She said investigators were hand-sifting through debris and using brushes to pick out various parts.
Carmody said the FAA tested the airport's VOR, which pilots use to navigate, and found it "slightly out of tolerance." Carmody said it wasn't clear what bearing that had on the investigation. FAA officials were re-checking the VOR on Sunday.
Witnesses said the plane appeared to be in trouble.
Megen Williams, who lives near the crash site, said she heard the plane overhead and thought the engine stopped before the crash.
"It was dead silent for a split second then it started up soft and got louder and then I heard the explosion," she said.
Williams added that she didn't call 911 because she dismissed the explosion as a mine blast, which she described as a common occurrence in the Iron Range area.
Carmody said the impact area was "fairly small" at about 300 feet by 190 feet.
"There was evidence of an intense post-crash fire," Carmody said. "The fuselage was destroyed. The cockpit was gone. The left wing was badly burned. The right wing was severely damaged, and the tail was two-thirds intact."
Officials removed the bodies from the wreckage Saturday, Carmody said. She expected a medical examiner's post-mortems to be completed Sunday.
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