Stevens dies in plane crash

Former Sen. Ted Stevens, a founding father of the state of Alaska and longtime Republican senator, has died in a plane crash in southwest Alaska, according to a spokesman for his family.

“He was killed. His family has been notified of his death,” said spokesman Mitch Rose, a former chief of staff to Stevens. 

The senator’s family released a statement that said Stevens’s legacy could be seen in the 49th star of the American flag. 

“Alaska and the nation he so loved, have lost a great man,” the statement said.

Stevens, 86, was one of nine passengers on board a small plane that crashed in southwest Alaska Monday night. 

Sean O’Keefe, the CEO of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS) North America, and O’Keefe’s son Kevin were also on the plane but survived, according to a statement released late Tuesday afternoon by the company.

“It was with a great sense of relief and gratitude that we learned that Sean, and his son, Kevin, survived the aircraft crash in Alaska,” said Guy Hicks, vice president of communications for the company. “We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of those less fortunate in this terrible accident.”

“We owe a debt of gratitude for the heroic efforts of the members of the rescue crew and others who rushed to the scene. We look forward to Sean’s full recovery and rapid return to EADS North America.”

Sources have told The Hill that Jim Morhard, the former chief of staff for Stevens on the Senate Appropriations Committee, was also on the plane. 

Rose declined to comment on whether others on the plane died in the crash Monday night. “Right now, they’re still doing the notification process of the other victims,” Rose said.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a statement citing reports that said five of the nine people aboard the plane were dead. NTSB said it was not confirming the fatalities.

The Alaska Air National Guard was called to the area, but
rescue efforts were hindered by severe weather, according to the Anchorage Daily News

The NTSB has sent a team to investigate the crash, which it said took place at about 8 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time. The crash involved a De Havilland DHC-3T that crashed 10 miles northwest of Aleknagik, Alaska, NTSB said.

Stevens served in the Senate from 1968 to 2009. He lost a narrow reelection in 2008 just a week after a federal jury found him guilty of failing to report gifts from an Alaskan company. Charges against Stevens were later dropped after Attorney General Eric Holder found prosecutorial misconduct in the Stevens trial.

In 1978, Stevens survived another plane crash at Anchorage’s airport. His wife was killed in that crash.

After his family confirmed that Stevens had died in Monday’s crash, tributes poured in from members of both parties. 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who faces a tough primary challenge but suspended political activity upon hearing of the crash, said the love and respect in Alaska for Stevens is “on a par” with what Americans feel for Martin Luther King Jr. and former presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. 

“Ted had the vision of a John Kennedy that Alaskans are an exceptional people who would achieve great things in his lifetime; the compassion of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in devoting his life to alleviating the Third World conditions that plagued Alaska’s Native people; and the unwavering strength of a Ronald Reagan, whether fighting for the men and women of our military or for Alaska’s right to develop [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] and its abundant national resources,” she said.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who defeated Stevens in 2008, said Alaska had lost one of its greatest statesmen and a true pioneer of the state.  

— This story was posted at 9:04 a.m. and last updated at 4:29 p.m.

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