When Ted Stevens and his companions left their lodge, they thought they were headed for a quick trip to a salmon fishing camp. When they hadn’t arrived hours later, the lodge sent out search planes, who quickly found a horrific scene, the AP reports. The nose of the plane was gone, fuel slicked over the ground, the bodies of some—including Stevens—mangled in the fuselage. It was raining hard, and the survivors were freezing. Now, authorities are studying that rain, and the gusty wind that accompanied it, to see if it caused the crash.
“We're certainly looking at weather,” said a National Transportation Safety Board official, “but everything's on the table right now.” It wouldn’t be the first time weather had downed a private plane in Alaska’s mountains, notes Christopher Beam of Slate. In the last decade, Alaska has had 1,188 private plane accidents, compared to a national average of 351 per state. Blame the terrible weather, often shoddy runways, and a glut of small planes, with pilots the NTSB has complained are especially reckless. (Read more Ted Stevens stories.)