Former NASA Chief Sean O'Keefe, Son Survive Alaska Plane Crash

Thisstory was updated at 6:02 p.m. ET.

FormerNASA chief Sean O'Keefe and his son are among the survivors of the fatal planecrash in southwestern Alaska late Monday that killed five people, one of themex-senator Ted Stevens, officials with the defense contractor EADS NorthAmerica have confirmed.

Theplane was carrying nine people when it crashed Monday night near the town ofDillingham, Alaska, National Transportation Safety Board officials said. O'Keefe,who serves as CEO for EADS North America, was one of the passengers along withhis son Kevin and Stevens.

?It was witha great sense of relief and gratitude that we learned that Sean, and his son,Kevin, survived the aircraft crash in Alaska. We extend our deepest sympathy tothe families of those less fortunate in this terrible accident," said EADSNorth America chairman Ralph D. Crosby, Jr., in a statement. ?We owe a debt ofgratitude for the heroic efforts of the members of the rescue crew and otherswho rushed to the scene. We look forward to Sean?s full recovery and his rapidreturn to EADS North America.?

Earlier,the NASA watchdog website NASAWatch confirmed that O'Keefe's son was also onthe plane and that both survived. According to NBC News, whichcited a source close to the O'Keefe family, the former NASA chiefsuffered a broken pelvis and several other broken bones in the crash.

Reportsof the O'Keefes' survival were received with relief by officials at theLouisiana State University ? where O'Keefe served as chancellor after leavingNASA ? among others.

"TheLSU community is happy and relieved to learn that former Chancellor SeanO?Keefe and his son Kevin were found alive following their plane crash inAlaska," said current LSU chancellor Michael Martin in a statement."Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to everyone affected by thistragic event, and we send our deepest condolences to the loved ones of thoselost in the crash."

Earliertoday, a statement released by a Stevens family spokesperson said the86-year-old former senator for Alaska had died in the crash, CNN reported.

A NationalTransportation Safety Board dispatched a team to investigate the crash andissued an announcement on the crash.

"Atabout 8:00 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time, a DeHavilland DHC-3T (N455A) crashed 10miles northwest of Aleknagik, Alaska," NTSB officials said. "Reportsare that 5 of the 9 persons on board died in the accident."

Rescueefforts were hampered by severe weather in the region near the plane crash,according to press reports.

FormerNASA chief

O'Keefeserved as NASA Administrator ? the agency's top job ? between 2001 and 2005. Hewas appointed by President George W. Bush and served as the 10th chief of thespace agency.

O'Keefe was succeeded in 2005by Michael Griffin, who led the space agency until 2009. The current NASAchief is Charles Bolden, a former space shuttle commander.

"We at NASA are deeply saddened bytoday's news that former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and others were killed in aplane crash in Alaska that also injured former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefeand his son, Kevin," Bolden said Monday. "As a long-time supporter ofNASA, Sen. Stevens made lasting contributions to our agency and our country. Weat NASA mourn his loss and send our deepest condolences to his family, as wellas the families and friends of all who perished in the accident."

Bolden said NASA as whole sends its wishes toO'Keefe, his son and the rest of their family.

Stevensserved as a senator for Alaska until 2008, when he lost his re-election bid andwas convicted on corruption charges, though the case was later thrown out, accordingto MSNBC. At the time he was the longest-serving Republican senator.

Condolencespoured in for Stevens in honor of his long record with the Senate.

?A decoratedWorld War II veteran, Senator Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving thepeople of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform," PresidentBarack Obama said in a statement. "Michelle and I extend ourcondolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those whoperished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident.?

O'Keefe hada long friendship with Stevens that predated his tenure as NASA chief, and thetwo were longtime fishing buddies, according to the Associated Press and CNN.

NASA headoffice tenure

Duringhis tenure at NASA, O'Keefe led the space agency through both triumph andtragedy. In February 2003, NASA's space shuttle Columbia wasdestroyed during its reentry to Earth. O'Keefe oversaw efforts to cope withthe trauma and get the space agency back on track.

InJanuary 2004, O'Keefe made the controversial decision to cancel a planned spaceshuttle mission to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope (that decisionwas later reversed by his successor, Michael Griffin, and the STS-125 Hubbleservicing mission did fly in May 2009).

UnderO'Keefe's leadership, NASA also successfully landed the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit andOpportunity on the Red planet in January 2004. Those spacecraft went on to becomethe longest running missions on Mars.

Inhonor of his service to NASA, an asteroid discovered in 2003 was named afterO'Keefe ? the space rock 78905 Seanokeefe (2003 SK85).

Afterresigning fromNASA in 2005, O'Keefe served as chancellor of Louisiana State University.

Priorto heading up NASA, O'Keefe served as deputy director of the Office ofManagement and Budget, where he oversaw planning and management of the federalbudget during the administration of President Bush.

Beforethat, O'Keefe was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and GovernmentPolicy at the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and PublicAffairs in Syracuse, N.Y. He also directed the National Security Studiesprogram, a joint department of Syracuse and Johns Hopkins University.

Earlierin his career, the first president Bush appointed O'Keefe as Secretary of theNavy in 1992. In 1993, President Bush and then Defense Secretary Dick Cheneypresented him with the Distinguished Public Service Award.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.