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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A plane believed to be carrying eight people, including former Sen. Ted Stevens, crashed in southwest Alaska and rescue crews were trying to reach the wreckage early Tuesday, authorities said.
Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said there were possible fatalities. Five good Samaritans were on scene early Tuesday helping the crash victims, he said. It was unclear how they reached the site.
A U.S. government official told The Associated Press that Alaska authorities have been told the former longtime Republican senator is among several passengers on the plane. The official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, says Stevens’ condition is unknown.
The federal official declined to be publicly identified because the crash response and investigation are under way.
Hayes said the Guard was called to the area about 20 miles north of Dillingham at about 7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the downed plane. But severe weather has hampered search and rescue efforts.
Hayes said he was told by Alaska State Troopers that there were “eight or nine” people on board, though a spokeswoman for the troopers, Megan Peters, refused to comment.
She said all the agency could say for sure is that a plane went down and crews were “aggressively” trying to reach the crash site but having difficulty doing so. As of 4 a.m. Tuesday, she said she still hadn’t received word that crews had reached the site.
“I can’t go beyond, ‘We’re responding to a plane crash,'” she said.
The National Weather Service reported rain and fog at Dillingham, with low clouds and limited visibility early Tuesday.
I hope there were no fatalities, but it doesn’t sound good. Please keep the crash victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Update 1 – 12:30 PM: Various news outlets are reporting that a total of 8 people were on the plane, and some (unconfirmed) reports are saying that at least five are dead. Also being confirmed is that Stevens was indeed on the plane – but his condition is unknown at this time. As of noon today, the Alaska Air National Guard had just arrived at the scene of the crash.
Update 2 – 1:32 PM: CBS News notes that there are “conflicting reports” all over the place about whether or not Stevens survived the crash. As of this writing, his condition still has not been confirmed.
Update 3 – 2:51 PM: The AP has confirmed the death of Senator Stevens. May he RIP, and his family – and the family members of the other victims – find comfort and peace in their memories of their loved ones.