Former U.S. Senator Dies in Alaska Plane Crash

Former Senator Ted Stevens
Former Senator Ted Stevens

Update: A family spokesperson tells the AP that former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens has died in the plane crash. Details to come.

Former Republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (pictured) and Sean O'Keefe, a former NASA Administrator, are reportedly among the missing following a plane crash in Alaska last night.

Details are sketchy, but the National Transportation Safety Board says a DeHavilland DHC-3T (N455A) crashed 10 miles northwest of Aleknagik, Alaska, about 8:00 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time. Five of the nine people persons on board died in the accident. Two are reportedly serious injured. A senior NTSB air-safety investigator, Clint Johnson from the Anchorage regional office, will serve as investigator-in-charge. NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman is en route to the scene. CNN says the crash site is in a remote area.

O'Keefe, now the head of EADS North America, a unit of Europe's airplane and aerospace consortium, was traveling with his son, according to the Financial Times. He and Stevens were personal friends. CNN says O'Keefe and Stevens may have been traveling to a fishing cabin on the Alaska coast. EADS confirmed O'Keefe's presence on the flight. The Stevens family is "thanking" people for their prayers," according to CNN. They weren't more specific.

The GOP's Longest-Serving Senator

"Local reports suggested that poor weather had hampered a rescue operation launched by the Alaska Air National Guard after an aircraft spotted the wreckage," the FT reported. "The U.S. Coast Guard currently has an aircraft over the scene."

Stevens, 86, was the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. As the top appropriator of federal funds, Stevens brought home billions of dollars in projects for his state, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere." He lost reelection in 2008 after 40 years of service amid a corruption investigation. Stevens' conviction was later set aside by the U.S. Department of Justice because of prosecutorial misconduct.

The 54-year-old O'Keefe served as NASA Administrator from 2001 to 2005. He shepherded the agency during difficult times including the investigation of the Columbia Shuttle disaster. He joined EADS, owner of the aircraft maker Airbus, in October 2009. His condition is also unknown.