After many hours of speculation, it has been confirmed: former Alaska senator Ted Stevens was one of five people killed in a plane crash Monday night in Alaska. The small aircraft had been en route to Lake Aleknagik, where Stevens "had often spent summers," according to The New York Times. Reflections on Mr. Stevens's life are mixing with queries over the crash, and why the status of Stevens and others took so long to confirm.
- The Perils of Air Travel First Read's Domenico Montanaro recalls that Stevens was the survivor of a "plane crash that killed his wife" in 1978. "Because of the state's size ... air travel in Alaska is common," with its attendant dangers. The father of Stevens's former political rival, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, was "also killed in an Alaska plane crash," along with former House Majority Leader Hale Boggs in 1972. Montanaro quotes a 2002 AP article in which Stevens uttered an eerily prescient line: "'Every time you go up ... there's a chance you won't come down.'"
- 'A Series of Tubes' Pays Tribute A "series of tubes" was the "phrase Stevens coined ... in the context of net neutrality," recalls MG Siegler at TechCrunch, calling the crash's timing "odd" given the prevalence of the net neutrality news stories today:
Our best wishes go out to Stevens' family in this difficult time. Hopefully they understand that the Internet had a soft spot for the Senator, despite his stance on net neutrality--even Google and Verizon seem to have a hard time understanding it, judging from their actions to past few days.
- Strange Blackout Kathy Gill
at The Moderate Voice was one of many to wonder, throughout the day,
why the status of the former senator remained so difficult to
ascertain. "I totally understand the need to contact family members
before the press," she wrote. "But not even that explanation is being
reported by the National Transportation Safety Board." Though "the area
is remote," and "the weather is bad," the number of fatalities was
already known quite early in the day.
- Tricky Area to Navigate The New York Times' Liz Robbins explains some of the difficulty:
The plane went undetected by radar because in the area where it went down, about 20 miles north of Dillingham, there is no radar coverage below about 4,000 feet, according to one air traffic control expert familiar with the area. The expert asked not to be identified because the N.T.S.B. is in charge of releasing information. The flight was under visual flight rules, two people familiar with the area said, meaning that it was not being directed by air traffic controllers.
- A Particularly Alaskan Senator Politics Daily's Patricia Murphy remembers Stevens in 2008 calling"working to help Alaska achieve its potential" his "life's work." Said the senator: "My motto around here has been, 'To hell with politics, just do what's right for Alaska.'" Murphy also notes, aside from the charges of corruption that were ultimately dropped at the end of Stevens's career, criticism that Stevens had done his job of looking after his home state perhaps a little too well:
It was his role on the last committee--the Appropriations Committee--where Stevens defined his Senate career for better and for worse. As he sent billions of federal dollars back to his growing state for roads, hospitals, schools, and all manner of infrastructure, Stevens was criticized outside of Alaska for indulging in gluttonous pork-barrel spending at the expense of American taxpayers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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Heather Horn is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.