Monday night a private plane carrying former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and Sean O’Keefe the former head of NASA crashed in a remote stretch of southern Alaska. Authorities said that the crash left five people dead and three injured among them former NASA chief Sean O’Keefe and son survive.
A spokesman for the Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Guy Hayes said rescue crews were working to get at least three and possibly other survivors away from the scene. According to Hayes the rough terrain has complicated the rescue efforts. Good Samaritans spotted the plane and reported the crash, but the terrain has delayed the rescue efforts, it took Dillingham rescuers roughly 12 hours to get to the crash site.
Senator Stevens’ former chief of staff Mitch Rose confirmed the death and told CNN that the family has been notified of Stevens’ passing. Rose read a statement on CNN from the family “The Ted Stevens family offers their prayers for all those on board and their families. We thank the brave men and women who are working to reach the site.”
Senator Stevens lost his first wife and four others in a plane crash in Alaska in 1978. “Plane crashes are the occupational hazard of Alaska politics,” he told the Washington Post in 1979. Additionally the Post reported “He said he often felt as if one’s number had to come up eventually and even though he had been a fighter pilot in World War II, the prospect of flying around in his campaign frightened him.”
Because of the vast landscape of Alaska, despite the often perilous weather air travel is the common choice. In 1972 the House Majority Leader Hale Boggs and U.S. Rep Nick Begich were traveling over Alaska in a plane that is thought to have crashed, but was never found.
The Alaskan office of the Federal Aviation Administration said the flight was from GCI Lodge on Lake Nerka to Dillingham. Television reporters for local networks have told CNN that the people on board were heading out to a fishing trip.
News of the plane crash and Stevens’ death traveled across the state and country. Sarah Palin the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate responded with a touching Twitter message: Heartbreaking Bristol Bay plane crash. Alaska’s heart surrounds loved ones. More info coming in; pls pray for Dillingham rescue this morning.”
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton issued a statement from the White House; “Our hearts and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who suffered a loss today.”