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Mr. Morhard founded the Washington lobby firm of Morhard & Associates after serving as chief of staff for the Senate Appropriations Committee when Mr. Stevens was chairman.

The flights at Dillingham are often perilous through the mountains, even in good weather. National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah A.P. 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, Mrs. Hersman said.

“We’re certainly looking at weather, but everything’s on the table right now, and we haven’t ruled anything out,” Mrs. Hersman told CNN on Wednesday morning. She said investigators had not yet been able to talk to the crash survivors.

Mrs. Hersman said the group ate lunch at a lodge and the plane took off at about 3:10 p.m. for a trip to a salmon fishing camp.

The FAA on Tuesday said that the party was staying at a GCI corporate site known as Agulowak Lodge on Lake Nerka in the southern part of the state and that the camp was on Lake Aleknagik.

Lodge operators called the fishing 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, Mrs. Hersman said.

The doctor and emergency workers 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.
That part of Alaska is largely wilderness, with few roads, and access by air and boat Monday night was hampered by wind and rain.



This article was based in part on wire service reports.