Ex-NASA Chief from North Stonington Survives Plane Crash | NBC Connecticut

Ex-NASA Chief from North Stonington Survives Plane Crash

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    Former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe speaks during a press conference about his resignation Dec. 17, 2004 at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC. O'Keefe plans to leave the space agency sometime early next year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    A plane carrying former Sen. Ted Stevens and ex-NASA chief Sean O'Keefe crashed into a remote mountainside in Alaska, killing the longtime senator and at least four others, authorities said Tuesday.

    O'Keefe and his teenage son survived the crash with broken bones and other injuries, former NASA spokesman Glenn Malone said.

    The O'Keefes spent Monday night on the mountain with several volunteers who discovered the wreckage and tended to the injured until rescuers arrived Tuesday morning.

    Sean O'Keefe graduated from Wheeler High School in North Stonington in 1973. In 2004, he was back home to address the North Stonington Education Foundation and speak at a Strengthen Public and Community Education Event.

    Stevens and O'Keefe are longtime fishing buddies who had been planning a trip near where the float plane crashed.

    "Jackie and I have also known Sean O'Keefe for many years and consider him a good friend. We were relieved to learn that Sean and his son survived this tragic accident and we wish them a speedy recovery," Sen. Chris Dodd said in a statement released on Tuesday.

    O'Keefe, 54, was NASA administrator for three tumultuous years. He was deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget when President George W. Bush asked him in late 2001 to head NASA and help bring soaring space station costs under control.

    But budget-cutting became secondary when the shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry in 2003.

    O'Keefe's most controversial action at NASA was when he decided to cancel one last
    repair mission by astronauts to the Hubble Space Telescope. He said the mission was too risky. His successor overturned the decision. The Hubble mission was carried out last year.

    O'Keefe left NASA in 2005 to become chancellor of Louisiana State University. He is now the CEO of defense contractor EADS North America and oversees the bid for the
    hotly contested Air Force refueling jet contract.

    Dodd served with Stevens for almost 30 years.

    " I served with Ted for nearly thirty years and saw firsthand how deeply he cared about his constituents and how hard he fought for the brave men and women serving in our military. He was a dedicated public servant, and his contributions to Alaska and our nation will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family tonight, and with all of the families of the victims and survivors of this tragic accident,” Dodd said.

    Former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons also knows O'Keefe.

    “This is a man who is local from Southeastern Connecticut, who has an extraordinarily successful career, and who sadly, he and his son were in an airplane with Senator Ted Stevens when it crashed in bad weather. Thank God they survived, but what a terrible thing to have happen to them both,” Simmons said.