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Aug 10, 2010 3:05 PM by Letitia Walker

Update: Plane Crash Kills nine

Update: Former NASA spokesman says ex-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe survived Alaska plane crash.

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A plane carrying former Sen. Ted Stevens
and eight others crashed in remote southwest Alaska, killing the
longtime Republican lawmaker and four other people, authorities
said Tuesday.
Ex-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe was also believed to be aboard, but
it was unclear whether he was among the dead.
Stevens' family has been notified that the 86-year-old was among
those killed in the crash Monday night, family spokesman Mitch Rose
told The Associated Press.
Rescuers arrived on helicopter early Tuesday and were giving
medical care to survivors, Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy
Hayes said. He offered no additional details, except that there
were potential fatalities.
Alaska officials reported 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.
Lopatkiewicz said the NTSB is sending a team to the crash site
outside Dillingham, located in northern Bristol Bay about 325 miles
southwest of Anchorage. The aircraft is a DeHavilland DHC-3T
registered to Anchorage-based GCI.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said the
plane took off at 2 p.m. Monday from a GCI corporate site on Lake
Nerka, heading to the Agulowak Lodge on Lake Aleknagik. He didn't
know if that was the final destination or a refueling stop.
The GCI lodge is made of logs and sits on a lake, and photos
show a stately main lodge room with a large imposing stone
fireplace, a leather sofa and a mounted caribou head on the wall.
Fergus said the plane was flying by visual flight rules, and was
not required to file a flight plan.
Stevens and O'Keefe are fishing buddies and the former senator
had been planning a fishing trip near Dillingham, friend William
Canfield said. The flights at Dillingham are often perilous through
the mountains, even in good weather.
Hayes said the Guard was called to the area about 20 miles north
of Dillingham around 7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the
downed plane. But severe weather has hampered search and rescue
efforts.
The National Weather Service reported rain and fog, 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 later.
At least three crash victims were being airlifted to Anchorage,
Guard spokeswoman Kalei Brooks Rupp said. She said volunteers hiked
into the crash site Monday night and provided medical aid until
rescuers arrived.
Lawmakers, officials in both national parties and residents in
Alaska were awaiting news of Stevens' fate.
The moderate Republican was appointed to the Senate in 1968 and
served longer than any other Republican in history. He was beloved
as a tireless advocate for Alaska's economic interests.
The White House said Obama administration officials were closely
watching news out of Alaska.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, asked Alaskans to join her in
prayer for all those aboard the aircraft and their families, as did
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska. He called the plane crash tragic.
Begich's father, Nick Begich, who was Alaska's only congressman
in 1972, was killed when his plane disappeared over the Gulf of
Alaska with then-House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana.
Stevens was one of two survivors in a 1978 plane crash at
Anchorage International Airport that killed his wife, Ann, and
several others. He remarried several years after the 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 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
prosecutors.
O'Keefe, 54, was NASA administrator for three tumultuous years.
He was deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget when
President George W. Bush asked him in late 2001 to head NASA and
help bring soaring space station costs under control.
But budget-cutting became secondary when the shuttle Columbia
broke apart during re-entry in 2003.
O'Keefe's most controversial action at NASA was when he decided
to cancel one last repair mission by astronauts to the Hubble Space
Telescope. He said the mission was too risky. His successor
overturned the decision. The Hubble mission was carried out last
year.
O'Keefe left NASA in 2005 to become chancellor of Louisiana
State University. He is now the CEO of defense contractor EADS
North America and oversees the bid for the hotly contested Air
Force refueling jet contract.
The company said O'Keefe was a passenger on the plane. The
company said it had no further information about O'Keefe's status.
The contract competition, which pits EADS against rival plane
maker Boeing Co., is for a piece of what could eventually be $100
billion worth of work replacing the military's fleet of aging
tankers.
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