Feature

How Sean O’Keefe survived the crash

O’Keefe is one of four survivors of the August plane crash that killed Sen. Ted Stevens and four others.

Sean O’Keefe is glad to be alive, said Ashley Halsey in The Washington Post. O’Keefe, a former NASA administrator, is one of four survivors of the August plane crash that killed Sen. Ted Stevens and four others. He remembers flying over the Alaskan wilderness on the way to a fishing trip with Stevens before everything went black. When he came to, he was buckled into his seat with the crumbled remains of his teeth in his mouth. Searching through the cab, he found Sen. Stevens lying to his left. “I checked his pulse. There was none.” He called out to his 19-year-old son, Kevin, who asked in a dazed voice when they were going to get to the fishing. “We’re not,” he told his son. “We crashed.”

For 18 hours, O’Keefe kept the other survivors conscious while they waited for help. He recalled once being shown a map of Alaska filled with pins representing crashed planes that were never found and figured their chances weren’t good. But he told the others: “We’ve got to soldier through this. Tough it out.” Eventually, help did come. O’Keefe had a punctured kidney and a broken vertebra, and as he was lifted from the wreckage, he finally allowed himself to pass out from the pain. “I knew I was safe,” he says.

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