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Rescuers describe horror at scene of plane crash that killed former Alaskan politician

The details of the plane crash that killed a former Alaska senator Ted Stevens and four others emerged yesterday as investigators tried to work out how the seaplane crashed into a mountain during a fishing trip. Three teenagers and their parents were on the plane, which crashed near Dillingham, Alaska, on Monday.

Mr Stevens lay dead in the mangled fuselage of the plane, a 1957 DeHavilland DHC-3T. A 13-year-old boy escaped death but watched his father die a few feet away.

Among those who survived is a former Nasa chief Sean O'Keefe, who is now CEO of the defence contractor EADS North America. Mr O'Keefe, 54, and his son had broken bones and other injuries. Authorities were studying weather patterns to understand if overcast skies, rain and gusty winds played a role in a crash that killed the most revered politician in Alaska's history.

Mr Stevens, a Republican, brought billions of dollars to the state during his 40 years in the Senate – a career that ended amid a corruption trial in 2008. He was later cleared of the charges.

He was one of two survivors of a 1978 plane crash at Anchorage International Airport in Alaska that killed his wife, Ann, and several others.

Tom Tucker, a pilot who was one of the first on the scene of Monday's crash, described seeing a survivor still strapped in the front seat with the nose of the plane disintegrated. His head was cut, and his legs appeared to be broken. "The front of the aircraft was gone," Mr Tucker said. "He was just sitting in the chair." He said he and other rescuers used a tarpaulin to make a tent over the cockpit to protect the survivors from the elements.