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Plane crash kills 'series of tubes' Senator Ted Stevens

Ex-NASA chief survives

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Updated Former US Senator Ted Stevens was killed when a plane that carried him, ex-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe and seven others crashed in Southwest Alaska on Monday night. He was 86.

Both O'Keefe and his teenage son, who was also onboard, survived, bringing the total number of survivors to four.

Stevens, who is best known in tech circles for calling the internet “a series of tubes,” was the longest serving Republican in the US Senate. He was also a tireless champion of special appropriations for his home state, an agenda that led to his famous defense of the “bridge to nowhere,” that was partially funded by federal tax dollars even though its benefit was questioned by many.

In 2008, Stevens lost his senate seat to Democrat Mark Begich, just eight days after the Republican was convicted on federal corruption charges. The conviction was thrown out in 2009 at the request of US Attorney General Eric Holder, who cited prosecutorial misconduct by the attorneys handling the case.

Stevens was one of two survivors of a 1978 plane crash that killed his then wife and several others.

The small aircraft was flying under visual flight rules, which allow pilots to visually navigate, and hadn't been in contact with air-traffic control when it went down around 7pm Monday local Alaska time. The plane was reported to be a DeHavilland DHC-3T that was registered to Alaska telecommunications company General Communications Incorporated.

O'Keefe led Nasa from 2001 to 2005 and was appointed by then President George W. Bush. Under his watch, Nasa successfully launched two Mars Exploration Rovers, but he was also at the helm during the Columbia space shuttle disaster, which claimed the lives of all seven astronauts onboard. The accident hastened the retirement of the shuttle.

O'Keefe later became chief executive of GCI in North America, according to reports.

It's reported their plane was carrying eight or nine people when it crashed about 20 miles north of Dillingham. The accident was first reported by a passing plane that spotted the wreckage. Officials said limited visibility on Tuesday morning hampered attempts by rescue teams to reach the site.

Several news outlets reported that both Stevens and O'Keefe were among those who died in the crash, but those reports have not been confirmed. ®

This article was updated to add new details.

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