NTSB begins investigation of Ted Stevens' fatal flight

More than four hours likely passed between the time of the plane crash that killed five people including former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and the point that employees back at the Dillingham-area lodge where they were staying noticed anything was amiss and launched a search.

That's according to a new, still-tentative timeline released by federal investigators Wednesday afternoon.

Four people survived the crash but suffered serious injuries. All remained hospitalized and too ill to talk to investigators Wednesday, according to Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, who is in Anchorage for the investigation.

Investigators aren't providing information about when people died, including whether any were dying during the hours it took for a rescue to be launched and medical help to come, Hersman told reporters at a press briefing.

"Any discussion of time of death, cause of death will be made by the medical examiner, and the safety board will not be releasing that information," she said.

Sometime Monday afternoon, a de Havilland Otter owned by General Communication Inc. took off from the telecommunications company's lodge on the Agulowak River north of Dillingham for what was supposed to be an afternoon of silver salmon fishing on the Nushagak River. Fifteen minutes later, it plowed into the side of a mountain.

NTSB investigators made it to the crash site for the first time at mid-afternoon Wednesday.

There are numerous people to interview, including GCI's chief pilot, its lodge employees, the crash survivors and people involved in the search and rescue. The latter includes paramedics from Dillingham and a doctor flown to the wreckage by private helicopter Monday night as darkness began to close in and rain and fog blanketed the area.

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