AUGUSTA, Ga. - A former state senator and his wife died Friday when their single-engine plane crashed during takeoff on a flight to Maine, where the couple had a vacation home.
The Piper Malibu Mirage carrying Thomas Allgood Sr. and his wife, Thelma, crashed outside Daniel Field in Augusta, where they lived. Pilot Steve Patterson also was killed.
Thomas Allgood, 71, was an attorney and a member of the Board of Regents, which governs the state's public colleges and universities.
''He and 'T' lived life to the fullest, and all of our lives will be emptier without them,'' University System Chancellor Stephen Portch said.
Witnesses said the six-seat plane struggled for altitude after taking off about 7:45 a.m.
It clipped a utility pole and then plowed into a bus stop shelter, exploding when it hit the ground, said Beach Scott, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
A burning section of the plane skidded into a brick retaining wall near municipal water storage tanks, in a heavily traveled area. The plane narrowly missed traffic on a four-lane thoroughfare, witnesses said.
There were no reports of injuries on the ground.
Airport manager Willis Boshears said the weather was good when the plane crashed.
Gov. Roy Barnes called the deaths ''a terrible loss.''
Allgood, a Democrat, was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1976 and became majority leader in 1981 and served until 1991, when he decided to leave the Senate. He came a regent two years later.
An Augusta native, Allgood graduated from the former Augusta College and earned two law degrees from Emory University.