Alaska News Nightly: August 10, 2010

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Alaska Mourns Loss of Former-Senator Ted Stevens
Annie Feidt and Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
All of Alaska is mourning the loss of former Senator Ted Stevens today. Stevens died in a plane crash last night near Dillingham. Four other people died along with Stevens, including the pilot Terry Smith – a legendary airman in Alaska. William Phillips Senior also died, along with GCI Vice President Dana Tindall and her daughter, Corey Tindall.

The survivors include ex-NASA chief Sean O’Keefe, who was a former long time aide for Ted Stevens. O’Keefe’s teenage son, Kevin, also survived, along with 13-year-old William Phillips Jr. and Jim Morhard of Alexandria, Va. The four survivors are being treated at Providence Hospital in Anchorage with varying degrees of injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Pilot and former state lawmaker Rick Halford was flying a similar plane in the same area in the hours before Stevens’ plane crashed yesterday. He says the weather was awful and did not look like it improved any throughout the day. He says at times, visibility was under a mile.

Four fire department medics from Dillingham responded to the crash scene. Ron Bowers is a long time Dillingham resident who is also an EMT. He has been monitoring the local response to the crash. He says they were flown to the site last night.

Bowers says the area where the plane crashed is known as the Maklung hills. He says it’s a low mountainous area where other planes have crashed:

Stevens’ Time in Office Hard to Summarize
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Governor Sean Parnell told reporters this afternoon that he first heard of the crash and the possibility that Senator Stevens may be on board late last night. Parnell said he acknowledged all the deaths with great sadness and in reference to Stevens, said it was hard to summarize six decades of public service, starting from Stevens’ Army service at age 19, his time in the Alaska legislature and six terms as Alaska’s U.S. Senator.

Alaska’s Congressional delegation reacted to the news with shock, and with sadness.

Flying Legend Dies in Crash
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The pilot who died in yesterday’s crash – Terry Smith – was a flying legend in Alaska. He was a longtime pilot for Alaska Airlines. In 1988 the company chose him to fly the historic “Friendship Flight” across the Bering Sea from Nome to Russia. Rex Gray is an Alaska Airlines pilot who trained with Smith. He says Smith was “Mr. Smooth” in the air, and calls him the most professional airmen he’s ever known. Gray says he talked to Smith last spring.

Smith’s son-in-law, Major Aaron Malone died earlier this month in the C-17 cargo plane crash at Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Looking Back on Stevens’ Impact
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
It’s hard to underestimate the impact Ted Stevens had on Alaska. APRN’s Steve Heimel has this look back at his life and career.

Changing of Guard Signaled End of Era
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
When Senator Ted Stevens lost his reelection bid two years ago, it ended an era of Alaska politics.  APRN’s Libby Casey has more from Washington.

Former Correspondent Remembers Stevens
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Joel Southern covered Senator Stevens in Congress for nearly 20 years for APRN. He now lives in Denmark but was following the news today closely. Southern remembers first meeting Stevens as a young reporter just starting out.

Hensley Remembers Former Senator
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Senator Stevens was a fierce advocate on behalf of Alaska Natives and he helped steer billions of dollars to rural Alaska over the years. But he was also sometimes at odds with Native leaders. Willy Hensley is a former state lawmaker and longtime Alaska Native Rights advocate from Kotzebue. He remembers having a good relationship with Stevens, even though he says he wasn’t always an easy guy to get along with. Hensley says Stevens helped pass the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act through Congress.

Alaska Native Policies Shaped Stevens’ Legacy
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
One of the most visible symbols of Ted Stevens’ decades-long support for Alaska Natives stands adjacent to Tudor Road in Anchorage.   It’s the Alaska Native Medical Campus, dominated by a five-story, state-of-the-art hospital.  The medical complex rises as a tribute to a senator’s power and a people’s need.

Next to the hospital is South Central Foundation’s Primary Care Center.  A dedication to Senator Ted Stevens runs along the front of the building.

Katherine Gottleib, president of South Central Foundation, says Stevens his faith in the ability of Alaska Natives’ ability to meet even the greatest challenges never faltered.

Gottleib also serves on the board of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.  She says that health system that Stevens helped Alaska Natives to create will become one of his enduring legacies.