Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was in fair condition in an Anchorage hospital this morning, seeing his daughter and aides and reading the newspaper after a plane crash yesterday that killed his wife and four other persons.
Federal officials still have no explanation of why the private Lear jet carrying Stevens' party flipped into the snow between two runways while landing at Anchorage International Airport on an afternoon with 30-mile visibility and moderate winds.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of 10 and the Federal Aviation Administration is sending a second team of four from Washington to investigate the crash.
The accident took the lives of Ann Stevens, originally of Bethesda, Md.; prominent Anchorage attorney Joseph Rudd, whose wife is a Democratic state legislator; executive Clarence Kramer of the Alaska Lumber and Pulp Co.; pilot Richard Sykes, owner of the plane and an Alaskan barge company, and copilot Richard Church.
Injured with Stevens was Langhorne (Tony) Motley, executive vice president and chief lobbyist for Citizens for Management of Alaska's Lands (CMAL), a pro-development group working to curb proposed federal legislation to set aside more than 100 million acres of Alaska lands as parks and wilderness. Motley was resting at Providence Hospital in satisfactory condition today.
On the request of Motley, Sykes flew from Anchorage to Juneau, the capital, to pick up the senator's party Monday. Stevens had been in Juneau for the day attending Gov. Jay Hammond's swearing-in and reception, a state chamber of commerce gathering and a meeting organized by CMAL.
The senator was on his way to meet with another CMAL group, and Sykes was taking a party to Anchorage as a personal favor, according to Stevens' aide, Jack Quisenberry. Use of the private plane, he said, was a matter of expediency. Stevens had been scheduled to leave by commercial carrier Monday night for Denver.
Stevens was appointed to the Senate in 1968. He has served as minority whip, the second highest GOP post in the Senate, since last year. Last month he was reelected to the Senate by a 70 percent majority.
Stevens was an Air Force pilot in the Pacific during World War II, but more recently had expressed qualms about air travel.
"He was clearly apprehensive about flying," Senate Minority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) told The Anchorage Daily News from his home. "He was never very specific... I sort of took it as a general apprehension which was sort of unusual, considering all the flying he did during the war."
At Providence Hospital Monday night Stevens was reported in serious condition. He was visited by the Rev. Norman Elliott, an Episcopal priest. "He asked for me and he was alert. He had been told about Ann. I don't know if he understood," Elliott said.
Sykes' $1.5 million Lear jet broke into three main pieces on the field. The main section was flipped in the snow with the wings upside down 40 yards away, and the tail another 20 yards beyond that.
While rescue crews worked with the wreckage, a jet from Barrow circled above carrying a young mother in labor. The plane was allowed to land just in time. Three minutes after she arrived at the Alaska Native Bospital and Medical Center, Alice Ahgeak bore a baby girl.