Former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens -- the longest-serving Republican in Senate history -- died in a plane crash while on a fishing trip in his home state Tuesday. He was 86.
Mitch Rose, family spokesman and Stevens' former chief of staff, said Stevens was among five people killed in the crash outside Dillingham, Alaska.
Former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe was also one of the passengers. A spokesperson said O'Keefe and his teenage son, Kevin, survived the crash with broken bones and other injuries.
After Stevens' death, President Barack Obama hailed him as a decorated World War II veteran who "devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform."
"Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those who perished alongside Sen, Stevens in this terrible accident," Obama added.
Officials from the National Religious Broadcasters also released a statement mourning the loss of their "friend and ally."
"During his tenure in the United States Senate, Ted Stevens was an enormously influential friend of broadcasters and a staunch defender of religious freedom. And he had a special interest in Christian broadcasters," NRB president and CEO Frank Wright said. "He told me once that his favorite radio station was the Christian station located in North Pole, Alaska. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his family."
Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the small plane to go down.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mike Fergus said the plane took off at 2 p.m. Monday from a GCI corporate site on Lake Nerka, heading to the Agulowak Lodge on Lake Aleknagik.
The Alaska National Guard was called to the area around 7 p.m. Monday after a passing aircraft saw the downed plane. It took rescuers several hours to reach the crash site because of Alaska's bad weather.
Stevens served the state of Alaska for four decades before losing his seat Senate seat in 2008 after a corruption trial. Charges against him were later dropped.
The crash that killed Stevens was not his first. Shortly after being re-elected in 1978, he was aboard a private jet that went down at Anchorage International Airport, killing his first wife, Ann.