Former SU professor survives crash

Sean O'Keefe

A former Syracuse University professor is one of the survivors of the Alaska plane crash.

Sean O'Keefe is a Syracuse University graduate and was the director the National Security Studies Program at SU's Maxwell School.

He was tapped by former President George W. Bush to lead NASA in 2001. During his tenure there, the space shuttle Columbia disaster happened.

O'Keefe left NASA in 2005 to become Chancellor of Louisiana State University. He is now CEO of defense contractor EADS North America.

Current Director of National Security Studies Bill Smullen has been friends with O'Keefe for more than 20 years.

"He's a good man. Huge heart, great mind, and he's a giver," says Smullen.

Smullen says Syracuse University is very important to O'Keefe. His son and daughter are students there. Smullen also says O'Keefe would share his challenges with students and liked to teach them what he had learned.

"He will learn from this, and he will learn how to be strong and how to keep people around him strong," says Smullen. "He's the head of a company now, so he's got thousands of people depending on him to be strong, to continue to lead, and I know he will do that."

O'Keefe's son Kevin was also in the crash. Both were injured, but they stayed on the mountainside to help other passengers.

The following is a statement from Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor:

"Even as we mourn the tragedy of those lost on yesterday's plane crash in Alaska, the Syracuse University community is comforted to hear the news that our alumnus and former Maxwell faculty member, Sean O'Keefe, and his son Kevin, one of our students, survived. All of our thoughts are with the O'Keefe Family as Sean and Kevin heal, and with the families of those who perished."

Federal investigators say the amphibious plane had left a lodge for a salmon fishing camp and smashed into a mountain 15 minutes later with such force that it left a 300-foot gash on the slope. A doctor and two EMTs were flown to the scene three hours later and tended to the injured during a damp and chilly night.

NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman says the 1950s plane was overhauled in 2005 and flown by a pilot with 29,000 hours of flight time.

Visit these links for more information: Maxwell school of national security studies , the Sean O'Keefe biography, NASA, more on the plane crash and EADS North America.