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Ex.-Sen. Ted Stevens Feared Aboard Deadly Crash

Updated 12:18 p.m. ET

A plane carrying nine people - including former Sen. Ted Stevens and former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe - crashed in southwest Alaska, killing five people on board, authorities said Tuesday.

It was unclear whether Stevens or O'Keefe were among the dead.

Reports from officials in Alaska were that nine people were aboard the aircraft and that "it appears that there are five fatalities," NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz told The Associated Press in Washington.

Military rescuers have arrived at the scene Tuesday morning, roughly 12 hours after the crash occurred.

Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes says rescuers arrived on helicopter early Tuesday and were giving medical care to survivors. He offered no additional details, except that there were potential fatalities.

A U.S. government official told The Associated Press that Alaska authorities have been told that Stevens, a former longtime Republican senator, was on the plane. A former member of Stevens' staff also said that he was aboard, the New York Times reported. Both said Stevens' condition is unknown.

The European aviation and defense giant EADS confirmed that O'Keefe, now the company's North American CEO, was aboard as well.

The plane crashed in southwest Alaska and rescue crews were trying to reach the wreckage early Tuesday, authorities said.

A second government official in Washington said Tuesday that the National Guard in Alaska reported a private medical team was dropped near the crash site by commercial helicopter Tuesday morning. Four of nine people aboard the plane survived, the official said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley said the agency has a plane flying over the crash scene, scouting it to make sure it's safe for helicopters to come into the area with pararescuers.

An NTSB investigative team has been dispatched from Washington, D.C., and was expected on the ground Tuesday morning.

Hayes said the Guard was called to the area about 20 miles north of Dillingham at about 7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the downed plane. But severe weather has hampered search and rescue efforts.

The National Weather Service reported rain and fog at Dillingham, with low clouds and limited visibility early Tuesday.

Conditions ranged from visibility of about 10 miles reported at Dillingham shortly before 7 p.m. Monday to 3 miles, with rain and fog, reported about an hour later, according to the agency.

Friends of Stevens told the Anchorage Daily News that he was traveling to a lodge owned by the Anchorage-based communications company, CGI, to which the plane was registered.

"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," the newspaper reported.

Steven and O'Keefe are longtime fishing buddies and the former senator had been planning a fishing trip near Dillingham, longtime friend William Canfield said. The flight in and out of Dillingham is an often perilous trip through the mountains even in good weather, Canfield said.

Stevens' family thanked those trying to reach the site of a plane crash in southwest Alaska in a statement released Tuesday morning by a former Stevens chief of staff.

Stevens, 86, was one of two survivors in a 1978 plane crash at Anchorage International Airport that killed his wife, Ann, and several others.

Stevens, a moderate Republican, was appointed to the Senate in 1968 and served longer than any other Republican in history.

He remarried several years after the 1978 crash - he and his second wife, Catherine, have a daughter, Lily.

Over the years, Stevens directed billions of dollars to Alaska. But one of his projects - infamously known as the "Bridge to Nowhere" - became a symbol of pork-barrel spending in Congress and a target of taxpayer groups who challenged a $450 million appropriation for bridge construction in Ketchikan.

Stevens' standing in Alaska was toppled by corruption allegations and a federal trial in 2008. He was convicted of all seven counts - and narrowly lost his Senate seat to Democrat Mark Begich in the election the following week.

But five months after the election, Attorney General Eric Holder sought to dismiss the indictment against Stevens and not proceed with a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct by federal prosecutors.

Stevens' family thanked those trying to reach the site of a plane crash in southwest Alaska in a statement released Tuesday morning by a former Stevens chief of staff.

Lopatkiewicz said the NTSB is sending a team to the crash site.

In Washington, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the aircraft is a DeHavilland DHC-3T.

Dillingham is located in northern Bristol Bay, about 325 miles southwest of Anchorage.

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