Ted Stevens, Alaska Politics Legend, Dies in Plane Crash

Former Sen. Ted Stevens, the most revered Alaskan politician in the history of the state, has died in a plane crash on Monday in Dillingham, Alaska.

Stevens and his group were on their way to a salmon fishing camp when their DeHavilland DHC-3T amphibious plane crashed into a mountainous area in Dillingham, killing five people on board, including the 86-year-old former senator. Four of the passengers survived the crash, including former NASA chief and current EADS North America chief executive Sean O’Keefe.

Alaskans and national politicians were shocked by the demise of Stevens, who was one of two survivors of a 1978 plane crash and was a decorated World War II pilot. Stevens was one of the people who helped make Alaska the 49th state of the U.S. He served for 41 years as a senator, a record for a GOP lawmaker in the Upper House. He was named “Alaskan of the Century” in 1999 for having the biggest contribution to the development of the state in 100 years. He is also known for bringing billions of federal money to the state, helping Alaska stay financially afloat.

However, it was also this desire to help his fellow Alaskans that made him a poster boy for pork barrel spending when in 2005, he insisted in funding a multimillion-dollar bridge from Ketchikan to a small island with some 50 residents, a project that was ultimately disallowed and became known as the “Bridge to Nowhere.” Stevens was also convicted on corruption allegations, which played a significant part in his 2008 defeat to Mark Begich. The convictions were later overturned and the cases thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct.