Reports: Small Plane Down In Alaska; Ex-Sen. Stevens Possibly On Board
(11:15 a.m. ET: We've updated this post several times; be sure to click "refresh" and read through to see our latest additions. Among the additions is that former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe is also thought to have been aboard the plane. It still isn't known how many people may have been killed.)
A small plane carrying at least eight people, possibly including former Sen. Ted Stevens, crashed last night near Dillingham, Alaska, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting.
According to the newspaper:
"The Alaska Air National Guard was called to the area about 20 miles north of Dillingham at about 7 p.m. after a passing aircraft saw the wreckage, spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said. Eight people were reported to be on board the aircraft, though their status wasn't immediately known, he said. There were possible fatalities, he said."
It adds that:
"Friends of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens said he was traveling Monday to the GCI-owned Agulowak Lodge near Lake Aleknagik, and they were concerned for him.
"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.
KTUU-TV reports that: "Numerous sources feared former Sen. Ted Stevens was on board the flight, but officials have not been able to confirm that. A woman who answered the phone at former State Sen. Ben Stevens' home said they would not comment."
The Associated Press says bad weather is making rescue efforts difficult, and that there may have been an ninth person on board.
Stevens, a Republican, lost a 2008 re-election bid, just days after being convicted of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about expensive gifts he received from an Alaska businessman. That conviction was later thrown out, however, when a federal judge ruled that Stevens had been the victim of prosecutorial misconduct. Stevens, 86, served in the Senate for more than 40 years.
In October 1972, then House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, D-La., and Rep. Nick Begich, D-Alaska, were killed when their small plane crashed in Alaska. Begich was the father of the man who defeated Stevens in 2008, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich.
Humorist Will Rogers and famed pilot Wiley Post died in a plane crash near Point Barrow, Alaska, in August 1935.
Update at 10:17 a.m. ET: The AP says that former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe was on the plane.
Update at 10:10 a.m. ET: As commenter Susan McClear reminds us, Stevens was aboard a Learjet that crashed at Anchorage International Airport in 1978. Five people, including his wife Ann, died.
The airport has since been renamed the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
Update at 10 a.m. ET. The National Transportation Safety Board has released a statement that reads, in part:
"At about 8:00 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time, a DeHavilland DHC-3T (N455A) crashed 10 miles northwest of Aleknagik, Alaska. Reports are that 5 of the 9 persons on board died in the accident."
Update at 9:40 a.m. ET: The AP now writes that "a U.S. government official" says Stevens "is believed to have been aboard" the plane.