JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens may have been aboard a plane that crashed Monday evening in southwest Alaska, a federal official in Washington said Tuesday.
The official told the Associated Press that Alaska authorities have been told the former longtime Republican senator was among several passengers on the plane. The official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said Mr. Stevens' condition is unknown.
Rescue crews were trying to reach the wreckage early Tuesday, authorities said. Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said there are possible fatalities.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigative team has been dispatched from Washington and was expected on the ground Tuesday morning.
Maj. Hayes said the Guard was called to an area about 20 miles north of Dillingham at about 7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the downed plane. Severe weather has hampered search-and-rescue efforts.
Maj. Hayes said about five good Samaritans were on scene early Tuesday helping the crash victims. He 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 trying "aggressively" 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.
Conditions ranged from visibility of about 10 miles reported at Dillingham shortly before 7 p.m. Monday to three miles, with rain and fog, reported about an hour later, according to the agency.
The aircraft is a 1957 DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter registered to Anchorage-based communications company GCI, the Federal Aviation Administration told the Anchorage Daily News. A woman at the Regional Operations Center told the Associated Press all further information was pending notification of next of kin.
Dillingham is located in northern Bristol Bay, about 325 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this article from Washington.