A small plane that crashed in Alaska was carrying a former Nasa administrator and an ex US senator, EADS North America said. Former US senator Ted Stevens, who for years had a strong hand in controlling the nation's purse strings, died in the crash that killed at least five people, a family spokesman confirmed. The North American chief of European aerospace giant and Airbus maker EADS Sean O'Keefe, and his son, survived the crash, a sourced briefed on the matter said. Mr Stevens, the longest serving Republican senator ever, chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee and was a strong supporter of robust US defence budgets. A family spokesman confirmed his death in the crash. He was 86. The lawmaker lost his re-election bid in 2008 after he was convicted on corruption charges, but the case was later thrown out because of prosecutors' misconduct, including the withholding of exculpatory evidence from defence lawyers. Mr Stevens and Mr O'Keefe were on a fishing trip in a remote part of Alaska, according to the congressional source, adding that the plane either crashed by a lake or into the water.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a statement that "reports are that five of the nine persons on board died in the accident" which occurred about 8pm Alaska time (4am GMT Tuesday).
NTSB said it launched a "go-team" to the site to investigate the crash, which involved a single engine DeHavilland DHC-3T propeller plane, an aircraft capable of landing on water. The Anchorage Daily News said Mr Stevens, 86, was flying to the Agulowak Lodge, owned by the GCI company which also owns the single engine plane that crashed. A woman at the home of retired US Air Force general Joe Ralston, a Stevens family friend, said Mr Ralston was comforting the politician's wife Catherine as they sought information about the accident, the daily said.
Mr Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in US Senate history, lost a tight race in November 2008, just one week after he was found guilty of corruption regarding gifts he received from an oil services firm. Mr O'Keefe, the 54-year-old chief executive of the European aerospace firm's North America operations, had been on a private trip to the remote northwestern US state, Hicks said. Earlier today the Alaska National Guard said that "the plane was reportedly carrying eight passengers and there are potential fatalities."
It said medical personnel had reached the scene of the crash, which occurred in apparently poor weather, and that National Guard squadrons were "battling inclement weather en-route to the scene" late Monday. Deep forests of fir trees cover thousands of square miles of landscape, where runoff from sweeping mountains serves a series of large lakes in the region, including Lake Aleknagik, near the Agulowak Lodge where Stevens was reportedly headed.
Transport by small plane including seaplanes is common in Alaska, where weather, long distances and an incomplete highway system make road travel difficult. The crash is the third in less than two weeks in the sparsely populated state. Three people died earlier this month when a twin-engine cargo plane crashed in Denali National Park, and a US military C-17 Globemaster cargo plane crashed on a training mission late last month at the Elmendorf base near Alaska's biggest city Anchorage, killing all four crew members aboard.
Here are some facts about Ted Stevens, a hot-tempered and gruff former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee who was a bulldozer when it came to securing money for his state. * He survived a plane crash in 1978 at Anchorage International Airport that killed his first wife, Ann. * In 2000 he was named "Alaskan of the Century" and had an airport named after him: the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. * He was first appointed to the Senate in 1968 to fill the seat vacated due to the death of Democratic Senator Bob Bartlett. * After repeatedly winning re-election by wide margins, Stevens lost his bid in 2008 after being convicted on corruption charges. The case was later thrown out because of prosecutors' misconduct. * In September 2007, his proposed "Bridge to Nowhere," which became a symbol of out-of-control "pork barrel" spending and government waste, was abandoned when Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced the state would focus on other needs. The proposed bridge would have linked Gravna Island, population 50, to the town of Ketchikan at a cost of US$398 million (Dh1.46 billion). * Mr Stevens relished his reputation as a hot head. When he succeeded Mark Hatfield as chairman of the Appropriations Committee in 1997, Mr Stevens said, "Senator Hatfield had the patience of Job and the disposition of a saint. I don't. The watch has changed. I'm a mean, miserable SOB." * He became particularly riled when fellow senators voted against what he considered Alaska's interests. In a debate over one of his many failed bids to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, Mr Stevens said in March 2003: "I have never broken a commitment in my life. I make this commitment. People who vote against this today are voting against me, and I will not forget." * Mr Stevens backed aggressive defence spending, tax cuts and authorization of the 2003 US-led attack of Iraq. He opposed gay marriage, a federal ban on assault weapons and abortion. * Born on November 18, 1923, in Indianapolis, Mr Stevens was raised in Indiana and later in California. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War Two. After returning from the war, Stevens graduated from UCLA and Harvard Law School and then headed north to Alaska, where he practised law in the 1950s. * AFP and Reuters