AUBURN, Maine -- Officials and friends from the capital of Maine to the capital of the Soviet Union mourned the death of Samantha Smith, the schoolgirl who gained celebrity as a 'peace ambassador.'
Grief struck both East and West Monday after Smith, who had just launched a career as a television performer, died in a plane crash with seven others.
Two crewmembers and six passengers, including 13-year-old Samantha and her father, Arthur, en route home from London, died Sunday night when Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 from Boston crashed and burned about a half-mile from the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport while trying to land.
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the scene Monday to investigate the crash.
'We have not ruled out anything, and we won't until we finish our investigation,' said safety board official Patrick Bursley. 'But the fire clearly engulfed the airplane. Whether there was a fire before that, we'll have to investigate further before we can pass on that question.
Bursley, who flew to the scene, said an air traffic control specialist had been sent to Portland to investigate the conversation between the pilot of the Bar Harbor Airlines plane and Portland controllers before the plane attempted to land at Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport. The plane did not have a flight recorder.
Samantha's death was mourned in her hometown of Manchester, Maine, about 25 miles north of the crash site, and the nearby state capitol in Augusta.
'All of America has lost a very special little girl with the tragic death of Samantha Smith,' Gov. Joseph Brennan said.
A memorial service is set for Wednesday at 1 p.m. at St. Mary's Church in Augusta.
Her family has requested donations in Samantha's memory be sent to the International Environmental Education in Estes, Colo., and the Vermont-based Bridges for Peace organization.
Samantha became an international celebrity in 1983 when, at the age of 11, she toured the Soviet Union for two weeks at the invitation of President Yuri Andropov, to whom she had written about her fear of nuclear holocaust.
She became a symbol worldwide of young people's desire to teach their elders the dangers of atomic destruction and the folly of arms buildup.
'I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war,' she wrote Andropov, who responded that 'we want very much to live in peace.' Andropov, who died in 1984, never met his young pen pal.
The Soviet newspaper Izvestia published a story on her death and the Tass news agency said, 'The name of Samantha Smith was well-known in the U.S.S.R. and around the world.'
A television news commentator narrating a picture story about her said, 'It is difficult to believe that the voice of this distinguished young American will not be heard any longer,' he said.
She was to have starred this fall with actor Robert Wagner in an ABC television series titled 'Lime Street.' She and her father were returning from filming in London when the crash occurred, said an ABC spokesman in New York.
A tearful Wagner said he loved and adored the child who was to appear with him in the TV series.
'I am absolutely devastated,' Wagner said. 'I adored that little girl.
The other victims of the crash were identified as Earl Dunphy, 57, of Louisiana, a former Auburn resident; Alan Saveall, 38, of Waterville; James C. Eastman, 46, of Chevy Chase, Md.; Joanne Reilly, 53,of San Diego; Roy Fraunhofer, 37, of Bangor, the pilot; and David Owen, 23, of Bangor, the first officer.