Former Texas Sen. John Tower and his daughter were among 23 people killed Friday when an Atlantic Southeast Airlines commuter plane crashed in flames while landing at Glynco Jetport, authorities said.

Tower, 65, a Republican senator for 24 years whose nomination as defense secretary was defeated in 1989 amid controversy over his personal life, was traveling with his daughter, Marian, 35, en route to Sea Island, Ga., for a party for his new book, "Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir."His death came only one day after his former colleague, Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., was killed in a collision between his plane and a helicopter over a Philadelphia suburb. (See related story on A2.)

Glynn County officials did not release the names of those killed in the plane crash, but NASA officials at the Johnson Space Center in Houston said the victims also included astronaut Sonny Carter, 43, Warner Robins, Ga., who flew aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1989.Continued from A1

Marianne Cassano, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman in Atlanta, said 20 passengers and a crew of three were on ASA Flight 2311, a twin-engine turboprop headed from Atlanta to Brunswick. Atlantic Southeast is a commuter carrier affiliated with Delta Air Lines.

Glynn County Police Chief Carl Alexander said there were no survivors.

A morgue was set up at a nearby elementary school, and investigators from the FAA and the National Traffic Safety Board were en route.

In Los Angeles, President Bush called Tower's death "a tragic loss."

"I started with John Tower in politics in Texas 30 years ago," Bush said, "and we became friends then and we remain friends until this very moment. It's very sad."

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who succeeded Tower as Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and led the fight against his nomination as defense secretary, said he was "deeply saddened." Nunn was the target of criticism from Tower in a new autobiography.

"America has lost a patriot," Nunn said in a statement in Washington. "Senator Tower's love of country and belief in a strong national defense characterized his many years of distinguished public service."

In a message to the space shuttle Atlantis, which was launched earlier in the day, NASA's mission control said, "It is with deepest regret that we . . . must let you know that astronaut Sonny Carter died today in the crash of a commuter aircraft . . . We are all greatly saddened. We will miss Sonny."

Jeanne Johnson, a spokeswoman for Tower's office in Dallas, said she was told by the FAA that Tower was aboard the plane. Tower's office said earlier he had been scheduled aboard the flight.

Alexander said the plane crashed and burned about 2:50 p.m. about 2 miles short of a runway at the Glynco Jetport. Witnesses said the plane apparently experienced problems at the last moments before crashing in a wooded area. Some said they heard an explosion.

The turboprop missed a cluster of mobile homes by about 100 yards. No one was injured on the ground and no structures were hit. The weather was clear at the time of the crash.

"It turned up on its side and went into a nose dive," said James Griner, whose home is in the approach pattern to the airport. "I told my wife it's going down and I'm going to it. I looked for any casualties . . . if there was anybody I could help, but there wasn't any."

Griner said emergency crews arrive within five minutes, but the plane was engulfed in flame and crushed into an unrecognizable lump of metal.