Aug 10, 2010 11:35 AM by Melissa Canone
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A plane carrying nine people - including
former Sen. Ted Stevens and former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe
- crashed in southwest Alaska, killing five people on board,
authorities said Tuesday.
It was unclear whether Stevens or O'Keefe were among the dead.
Reports from officials in Alaska were that nine people were
aboard the aircraft and that "it appears that there are five
fatalities," NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz told The Associated
Press in Washington.
A U.S. government official told The Associated Press that Alaska
authorities have been told that Stevens, a former longtime
Republican senator, was on the plane. The official, who spoke on
grounds of anonymity, says Stevens' condition is unknown.
The federal official declined to be publicly identified because
the crash response and investigation are under way.
Stevens was one of two survivors in a 1978 plane crash at
Anchorage International Airport that killed his wife, Ann, and
Defense contractor EADS North America said Tuesday morning that
O'Keefe, the CEO of the U.S.-based division of the European
company, was a passenger on the small plane. The company said it
had no further information about O'Keefe's status.
Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said the Guard
was called to the area about 20 miles north of Dillingham at about
7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the downed plane. But
severe weather has hampered search and rescue efforts.
Hayes said five people were on scene early Tuesday helping the
crash victims. It was unclear how they reached the site.
A second U.S. government official in Washington said Tuesday
that the National Guard in Alaska reported a private medical team
was dropped near the crash site by commercial helicopter Tuesday
morning. Four of nine people aboard the plane survived, the
Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley said the agency has a
plane flying over the crash scene, scouting it to make sure it's
safe for helicopters to come into the area with pararescuers.
The National Weather Service reported rain and fog at
Dillingham, with low clouds and limited visibility early Tuesday.
Conditions ranged from visibility of about 10 miles reported at
Dillingham shortly before 7 p.m. Monday to 3 miles, with rain and
fog, reported about an hour later, according to the agency.
Stevens, a moderate Republican, was appointed to the Senate in
1968 and served longer than any other Republican in history.
He remarried several years after the 1978 crash - he and his
second wife, Catherine, have a daughter, Lily.
Over the years, Stevens directed billions of dollars to Alaska.
But one of his projects - infamously known as the "Bridge to
Nowhere" - became a symbol of pork-barrel spending in Congress and
a target of taxpayer groups who challenged a $450 million
appropriation for bridge construction in Ketchikan.
Stevens' standing in Alaska was toppled by corruption
allegations and a federal trial in 2008. He was convicted of all
seven counts - and narrowly lost his Senate seat to Democrat Mark
Begich in the election the following week.
But five months after the election, Attorney General Eric Holder
sought to dismiss the indictment against Stevens and not proceed
with a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct by federal
Stevens' family thanked those trying to reach the site of a
plane crash in southwest Alaska in a statement released Tuesday
morning by a former Stevens chief of staff.
Lopatkiewicz said the NTSB is sending a team to the crash site.
In Washington, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said
the aircraft is a DeHavilland DHC-3T registered to Anchorage-based
General Communication Corp.
Dillingham is located in northern Bristol Bay, about 325 miles
southwest of Anchorage.