By LIZ ROBBINS
Former United States Senator Ted Stevens was killed in a plane crash in southwestern Alaska on Monday night, a former member of Mr. Stevens’s Congressional staff said on Tuesday.
There were nine people on board, and five were believed to have been killed in the crash, authorities said. Mr. Stevens, who had been the longest serving Republican in the United States Senate, was 86.
The body of Mr. Stevens was found just after daylight, according to the aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of respect to the family.
Three survivors were airlifted to Anchorage for further medical attention.
A rescue crew from the Alaska Air National Guard and the United States Coast Guard arrived on the scene more than 12 hours after the crash, hampered by rain, high winds and heavy fog in an area of mountains and lakes north of Bristol Bay.
The European aerospace firm EADS said that the chief executive of its North American operations, Sean O’Keefe, 54, a former NASA administrator, was also on board.
Major Guy Hayes, chief of public affairs for the Alaska National Guard, said in a telephone interview that two rescue workers from the Alaska Air National Guard were on the scene and treated survivors. He said that three of the survivors were airlifted onto a Coast Guard C-130 plane around 10 a.m. local time, and that the National Guard rescue workers were “going back to the scene to provide further medical attention to those on the ground.” He said that “Good Samaritans” who had gone to the crash site were also assisting the rescue operations.
Major Hayes added that he could not confirm the number of fatalities or who was on the plane. The family of Mr. Stevens at first issued a statement on Tuesday morning that expressed concern but said nothing about the former senator’s fate:
“The Ted Stevens family offers their prayers for all those on board and for their families. We thank the brave men and women who are working to reach the site. We continue to work with the Alaska National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska State Troopers. We thank everyone for their support and prayers.”
The crash occurred about 320 miles southwest of Anchorage, the National Transportation Safety Board said. Another plane spotted the downed aircraft around 7 p.m. and notified authorities, the National Guard said.
Mr. Stevens and the other passengers were flying to a lodge near Lake Aleknagik, where he often spent summers fishing. Mr. Stevens and Mr. O’Keefe had been longtime fishing buddies.
The N.T.S.B. said that the crash was about 10 miles northwest of Lake Aleknagik, and the aircraft was a DeHavilland DHC-3T. The single-engine, high-wing airplane plane is owned by GCI, the Alaskan telecommunications provider, as is the lodge.
The plane went undetected by radar because in the area where it went down, about 20 miles north of Dillingham, there is no radar coverage below about 4,000 feet, according to one air traffic control expert familiar with the area. The expert asked not to be identified because the N.T.S.B. is in charge of releasing information. The flight was under visual flight rules, two people familiar with the area said, meaning that it was not being directed by air traffic controllers.
The N.T.S.B. said it was sending a team of investigators to the crash site, even though it said it did not know the identity of those on board. The agency does not ordinarily send a board member from Washington to the crashes of private or corporate planes.
Mr. Stevens, 86, was the longest-serving Republican senator until he lost his bid for a seventh term in 2008 after he was found guilty of corruption charges. The case was later thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.
His stature in Alaska seemed to have remained virtually intact despite the scandal, and recently he had been campaigning with the state’s Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski. Ms. Murkowski issued a statement asking Alaskans to pray for those aboard the aircraft.
Mr. Stevens survived another plane crash on Dec. 4, 1978, that killed five of seven people on board, including his first wife, Ann. He was traveling on a Lear jet that crashed when landing at Anchorage International Airport, which was renamed Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in honor of the senator in 2000.
Before that 1978 crash, Mr. Stevens reportedly spoke of a premonition that he would die in a plane crash, a fate that is not unknown to many in Alaska who travel the vast state in small planes.
Mr. O’Keefe guided NASA from 2001 to 2005, and was known for his leadership during the shuttle Columbia explosion in February 2003. He resigned on 2005 and became chancellor of the Louisiana State University before joining EADS in November 2009.
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