Stevens, O'Keefe Plane Was 'Smashed' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Stevens, O'Keefe Plane Was 'Smashed'

(CNN) -- It's too early to say whether former Sen. Ted Stevens and the four others who died in an Alaskan plane crash initially survived but eventually succumbed while waiting to be rescued, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board told CNN Wednesday.

"We don't know that information at this point," Deborah Hersman told CNN's "American Morning." "It's going to be up to the medical examiner to determine the cause of death." Autopsies on the victims are expected to be completed by the end of the day Wednesday.

The plane flew into the side of a mountain in remote southern Alaska Monday night, authorities said. Brutal terrain and bad weather kept survivors waiting 12 hours for rescue after the crash, officials and witnesses said. The accident left five people dead and four others injured.

Hersman said the investigation into the cause of the crash is "in the very early stages" and teams have been systematically gleaning detail from interviews with first responders.

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