Details are still very sketchy, but reports out of Alaska indicate that among the eight people believed to be onboard a plane that crashed Monday night near Dillingham was former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).
The Anchorage newspaper reports:
A woman who answered the phone at the Anchorage home of retired Air Force Gen. Joe Ralston, a good friend of Stevens, said Ralston was with Stevens’ wife, Catherine, comforting her and trying to find out what was going on.
Ongoing updates below:9:00 a.m. ET: The Alaska Air National Guard, which is based at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, released this statement:
The Alaska Air National Guard is responding to a plane crash 17-miles north of Dillingham that occurred Monday night.
The Air Force 11th Rescue Coordination Center, manned by Alaska National Guardsmen, was contacted by Dillingham Flight Service after a Good Samaritan spotted a downed aircraft around 7 p.m.
The Alaska Air National Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue Squadrons were alerted and are currently battling inclement weather en-route to the scene. They are expected to arrive at the plane crash site sometime after midnight.
The plane was reportedly carrying eight passengers and there are potential fatalities.
According to the RCC, there are five Good Samaritan medical personnel on scene assisting the plane crash victims.
9:08 a.m. ET: Stevens’ first wife, Ann, was killed along with the pilot and three others in a plane crash in 1978 in Alaska. Stevens himself survived that crash.
9:25 a.m. ET: We just talked to the state police in Alaska, and they still have not been able each the crash site due to adverse weather conditions. They tell us that they’d thought they’d be to the crash site by 12:30 a.m. local time (four hours behind ET) but still have not able to get there. “We have very skilled, very well trained, the best of the best up here for search and rescue … they haven’t been able to make it yet,” a spokesperson says. The first call reporting a plane down came in at 7 pm local time Monday.
9:33 a.m. ET: The State Police tells TPM that to its knowledge the only people at the crash site are any survivors and a handful of good Samaritans.
9:42 a.m. ET: According to TV station KTUU in Anchorage, “A woman who answered the phone at former State Sen. Ben Stevens’ home said they would not comment.”
9:47 a.m. ET: The plane that went down, according to the Anchorage Daily News, was a vintage 1957 DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter registered to GCI, “an Anchorage-based provider of telephone, cable TV, Internet and wireless services across the state.” Here’s a photo of that make and model of aircraft:
10:03 a.m. ET: NBC is reporting that former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe was onboard the plane when it crashes. After leaving NASA, O’Keefe served as chancellor at LSU in Baton Rouge until 2008. He is currently the CEO of the aerospace and defense contractor EADS.
10:06 a.m. ET: There is still no official word on whether Ted Stevens was aboard the plane when it crashed, but an anonymous “U.S. official” is confirming it to the AP.
10:07 a.m. ET: TPM just spoke with the Coast Guard. They say they are backing up the search and rescue effort, know exactly where the crash site is, and are just trying to get helicopters in.
10:15 a.m. ET: A “congressional source” confirms to Reuters that Stevens was on the plane when it crashed.
10:23 a.m. ET: “Reports are that 5 of the 9 persons on board died in the accident,” according to a statement from the NTSB.