Plane crash kills former US senator
At least five people dead, including Ted Stevens, after jet crashes in Alaska.
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2010 20:05 GMT
O'Keefe, the former head of Nasa, was also onboard the plane when it crashed in Alaska [AFP]

A private jet believed to be carrying nine people, including a former US senator and the former head of Nasa, has crashed in southwest Alaska, killing at least five people.

Ted Stevens, the former Republican senator, died in the crash, a spokesperson for his family said on Tuesday.

The fate of Sean O'Keefe, the ex-Nasa chief and the head of the defence contractor EADS in North America is not clear, following the over-night crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a statement that "reports are that five of the nine persons on board died in the accident".

The NTSB sent a team to the site to investigate the crash, about 20km from the city of Dillingham in the sprawling state's southwest.

"Local authorities are reporting that there are survivors and a rescue operation is underway. No other details are available at this time," Guy Hicks, a spokesman for EADS North America said on Tuesday.

Poor weather

The Alaska National Guard said that medical personnel had reached the scene of the crash, which apparently occurred in poor weather on Monday.

Major Guy Hayes, a National Guard spokesman, said his organisation was called to an area 30km north of Dillingham, after a passing aircraft saw the downed plane.  

The wilderness area where the aircraft went down is known for its scenic beauty.

Stevens was flying to the Agulowak Lodge, owned by the same company which owns the single engine plane that crashed, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

The former Alaska senator lost a tight race in November 2008, just one week after he was found guilty of corruption regarding gifts he received from an oil services firm.

O'Keefe, the 54-year-old chief executive of the EADS's North America operations, had been on a private trip, a company spokesman said.

Transport by small plane is common in  Alaska, where weather, long distances and an incomplete highway system make road travel difficult.

The crash is the third in less than two weeks in the sparsely populated state.

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