News4 has learned that several on board Sen. Stevens' plane had ties to the D.C. area.
One victim and two survivors of the plane crash that killed former Sen. Ted Stevens were from the D.C. area, according to Alaska State Police.
An amphibious plane carrying Stevens and eight others crashed into a remote Alaska mountainside Monday, killing five and stranding four survivors on a rocky, brush-covered slope overnight until rescuers could reach them.
William Phillips Sr., of Maryland, died in the crash. His son William Phillips Jr., 13, and Jim Morhard, of Alexandria, Va., were taken to Providence Hospital in Anchorage with varying degrees of injuries, along with survivors Sean O'Keefe, a former NASA chief, and his son, Kevin O'Keefe.
The nine people on the single-engine plane were on a fishing trip when the flight experienced sudden fog and rain in a rugged section of southwestern Alaska and slammed into the mountainside.
Volunteers discovered the wreckage late Monday and tended to the injured, including O'Keefe and his teenage son, during a damp and cold night on the mountain until help could arrive Tuesday.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived late Tuesday at the crash site outside Dillingham, located on Bristol Bay about 325 miles southwest of Anchorage. The cause was not immediately known, but the flights at Dillingham are often perilous through the mountains, even in good weather.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said the plane, a 1957 DeHavilland DHC-3T registered to Anchorage-based General Communications Inc., a phone and Internet company. He said the plane was flying by visual flight rules and was not required to file a flight plan.
National Weather Service data shows that weather conditions deteriorated between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Monday -- the approximate time the FAA said the plane took off. Visibility at Dillingham, the nearest observation area, was about 10 miles with overcast skies at 1:49 p.m.; it was three miles by 2:22 p.m., with light rain, fog and mist reported.
NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman said weather conditions at the time of the accident included light rain, clouds and gusty winds. The federal investigation is still in its early stages, and it's too early to say what caused the crash, Hersman said.
Hersman said the group had eaten lunch at a lodge and boarded a 1957 red-and-white float plane between 3 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. local time for a trip to a salmon fishing camp.
Lodge operators called the fish camp at 6 p.m. to inquire when the party would be returning for dinner but were told that they never showed up. Civilian aircraft were dispatched, and pilots quickly spotted the wreckage a few miles from the lodge, Hersman said. A doctor and EMTs were flown to the area and hiked to the wreckage as fog and rain blanketed the area and nightfall set in, making it impossible for rescue officials to reach the scene until daybreak.
The victims were identified as Stevens; Phillips Sr.; pilot Theron "Terry" Smith, 62, of Eagle River; Dana Tindall, 48, of Anchorage and a CGI executive; and Corey Tindall, 16, of Anchorage. Megan Peters, a spokeswoman for the troopers, said that the bodies have been recovered and were being taken to Anchorage.
Phillips' son Colter Phillips plays tight end for the University of Virginia football team. The school said he has left the team to be with his family.
Stevens and O'Keefe were fishing companions and longtime Washington colleagues who worked together on the Senate Appropriations Committee that the Republican lawmaker led for several years. Stevens became a mentor to the younger O'Keefe and they remained close friends over the years. Morhard and the elder Phillips also worked with Stevens in Washington.
Former NASA spokesman Glenn Mahone said the O'Keefes had broken bones and other injuries.