A day after being airlifted off a mountain side, former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe and his son Kevin are recovering from the aircraft accident that took the life of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Family officials said that both have asked for each other from their Anchorage hospital beds.
According to family and friends, O'Keefe, 54, is the most "banged up" of the two. He suffered a dislocated hip, a cut on his head, back bruises, and cracked ribs. There are also concerns about his spine, and tests are being conducted to determine the seriousness of the back injuries.
His teenage son Kevin also dislocated his hip, broke a leg, and had cuts and bruises on his face and knees.
According to one source, survivor William “Willy” Phillips Jr., 13, was a hero, caring for the other survivors on the father-son fishing trip while waiting for help to arrive. His dad, William Phillips Sr., 56, died in the crash. William Sr. was from Washington and worked as Stevens’s legislative director and chief of staff from 1981-1986. He was an attorney and lobbyist at Utrecht and Phillips.
Sean O'Keefe is in critical condition and his son in serious condition, and both are expected to recover.
Hundreds of O'Keefe's friends have reached out to the family, offering help and prayers. A relative said, "I strongly believe that it is everyone's prayers and support that got them through this tragic event." The family is planning to build a website where they will update Sean's and Kevin's medical statuses.
Very few public figures have a Washington resume as long as O'Keefe's, explaining why there has been a very busy E-mail chain in town of his friends trying to get details on his health. Those friends include former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, admirals and generals, reporters, and even fishing guides he's worked with. His professional career has spanned three decades from when he was Stevens's defense appropriations subcommittee director in the mid-1980s to his current role as head of the North American unit of European Aeronautic Defense and Space, which is vying to build a fleet of new aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. He is a former secretary of the Navy, former Pentagon comptroller, a former educator at Penn State University and Syracuse University, the former chancellor at Louisiana State University, former President George W. Bush's No. 2 budget czar, and the former head of NASA.
This afternoon his family spokesman issued this statement from Paul Pastorek, the state superintendent of education and a family friend:
Baton Rouge, La. -- Inquiries, concern and good wishes regarding the well-being of Sean O'Keefe and his son, Kevin, have been pouring into my office from around the state and country. Therefore, acting as spokesperson on behalf of Sean O'Keefe and his family, I would like to issue the following statement:
"During this time of tragedy, our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Senator Ted Stevens. His passing is a profound loss to Sean, both personally and professionally, as well as to the O'Keefe family.
We will remember him for his long-standing commitment and service to our country and the loving example he set as a husband, a father and a friend. Sean truly admired the work of Senator Stevens on behalf of the people of Alaska and the United States.
Sean, Kevin and our family also mourn the loss of their other travel companions, and we send their loved ones our most sincere condolences.
As for Sean and Kevin, their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening and we are confident they will have a full recovery. While we are deeply saddened by the losses of Sean's friends and colleagues, we are grateful Sean and Kevin will have the opportunity to return home to our family.
[Wife] Laura is holding up well. She has visited with both Sean and Kevin at the hospital, was heartened by seeing them and has communicated with both of them. Laura is very encouraged by the excellent medical attention they are getting and is particularly grateful for the valiant and heroic efforts that were made to rescue the passengers. She appreciates the outpouring of support that they have received and asks that we continue praying for all those who have been affected by this tragedy.
Considering that this is a time of grief and recovery for the O'Keefe family and others, only written statements will be issued, and no requests for press availability will be honored at this time. Therefore, we ask that the family's privacy be respected during this trying time."