Former Alaska Senator, Ex-NASA Chief In Alaska Plane Crash, Five DeadS

Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and ex-NASA head Sean O'Keefe are reported to have been two of nine people on this plane, which crashed last night in southwest Alaska. Five people were killed, according to U.S. officials. UPDATE.

Update: Former Senator Ted Stevens confirmed dead by CNN.

The plane, a 1957 De Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, went down 20 miles east-northeast of Dillingham, Alaska, around 7 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Rescuers were hampered by bad weather, and the National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team to probe the cause.

No names of those who died in the crash or who survived have been released by officials. The Anchorage Daily News said the plane carrying Stevens and O'Keefe was owned by an Alaskan telecommunications company, and was en route to a lodge near the crash site the company owned.

A former staffer for Stevens said in a statement to CNN that the family offered its prayers to those onboard.

Stevens, 86, was a senator for 40 years, and holds the title of longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history. A World War II transport pilot, Stevens funneled billions of dollars to Alaska during his time in office. He lost his seat in 2008 after being convicted of seven corruption charges, but the conviction was overturned and the charges dropped in April 2009 due to misconduct by prosecutors.

In 1978, Stevens survived a plane crash that killed his wife, Ann Mary Cherrington, and four other people at the Anchorage airport, which is now named Ted Stevens International.

Also on board was former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, according to his current employer EADS North America. O'Keefe ran the space agency from 2001 to 2005, and his tenure included the Columbia shuttle accident and the landing of the Mars rovers.

Photo: John Olafson/Airliners.net