Friends, family mourn Stevens
Former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, died in a plane crash Monday night near Dillingham, Alaska, but four other Washington-area passengers survived the crash.
Among the other passengers, former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and his son Kevin survived, according to a statement issued Tuesday afternoon by EADS, the European consortium that manufactures Airbus aircraft. The elder O'Keefe, who is now chief executive officer of EADS North America, led NASA during the administration of President George W. Bush. He also worked as deputy director of OMB, Navy secretary and Defense Department comptroller.
"We owe a debt of gratitude for the heroic efforts of the members of the rescue crew and others who rushed to the scene," EADS Chairman Ralph Crosby said in a statement. "We look forward to Sean's full recovery and his rapid return to EADS North America."
The Alaska Department of Public Safety has confirmed that former Senate Appropriations Committee chief of staff Jim Morhard also survived. Morhard left the committee in 2005 to establish the lobbying firm Morhard & Associates.
But William Phillips, another former Stevens staffer, was among the fatalities. Phillips, who was a partner in the firm Utrecht and Phillips, served as legislative director and chief of staff for Stevens during the 1980s. Phillips' 13-year-old son, Willy, was among the survivors.
The survivors, who were flown by a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft to Providence Hospital in Anchorage for treatment, have varying degrees of injury, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
The plane was owned by GCI, an Anchorage-based telecommunications provider that also owned the lodge where the group was staying. Other fatalities include the pilot, Theron Smith, as well as GCI executive Dana Tindall and her 16-year-old daughter, Corey.
Alaska authorities and a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that a single-engine amphibious DeHavilland DHC-3T crashed Monday night on the side of a mountain 10 miles northwest of Aleknagic, near Dillingham, in southwest Alaska. The wreckage was discovered by a pilot about 7:30 p.m. local time after the plane carrying Stevens failed to reach its destination on the Nushagak River.
NTSB sent a team led by NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman to the crash site.
Stevens, who was ousted from office by Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in 2008, was the longest-serving Republican in Senate history and a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman who lavished his home state with billions of dollars of federal spending.
The Stevens family released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the former senator "loved the Senate and was a fierce advocate of its role in our democracy and its responsibility under the constitution."
The family added that they "grieve for the dear friends who also lost their lives and we thank the courageous men and women of the Alaskan Command, the Alaska National Guard, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska State Troopers for their rescue and recovery efforts."
As soon as word of Stevens' death hit Capitol Hill, waves of tributes began to flow from close friends and former political adversaries alike.
"Ted Stevens and I agreed on issues about once a century, but I always enjoyed and appreciated working with him because you always knew exactly where he stood," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said in a statement. "There was no guile about him."
Stevens "devoted his life to the state of Alaska, which he dearly loved, and fought for it every day of his life with conviction and passion," Obey said.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, one of Stevens' closest friends in the Senate, issued a statement that he and his wife Irene are "deeply saddened by the tragic death of our dear friend, and my brother, Ted Stevens."
"Our friendship was a very special one," Inouye said. "When it came to policy, we disagreed more often than we agreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another. We were always positive and forthright."
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell called Stevens "an American original." Stevens supported McDowell and helped him get his seat on the FCC.
"Through his tireless efforts in the U.S. Senate, he was not only a key figure in fighting for Alaska and its citizens, but a man whose energy and talent reverberated into many other areas of American public policy," McDowell said in a statement.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who tweeted Tuesday afternoon that she had suspended campaign activities, said in a statement that "Alaska lost a hero and I lost a dear friend."
"The thought of losing Ted Stevens, a man who was known to business and community leaders, Native chiefs and everyday Alaskans as 'Uncle Ted,' is too difficult to fathom," Murkowski said.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama extended their condolences to the Stevens family and "to the families of those who perished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident."
In a statement issued by the White House, the president said, "A decorated World War II veteran, Senator Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform."