Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says former Sen. Ted Stevens, who was aboard a small plane that crashed in the state's southwest region, is a "warrior" and "Alaskan hero."

"A World War II vet, who has dedicated his life to his country, he is one of our heroes up here," Palin told Fox News.

But Palin said the former Alaska senator isn't just viewed as an "Alaskan hero" for his service in war and in the Senate. He's loved for "the energy and the passion that he has for life and for those things that he has been engaged in with responsible resource development efforts and just loving all that Alaska has to offer," she said.

Stevens was one of nine people on board a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter that crashed outside Dillingham in northern Bristol Bay about 325 miles southwest of Anchorage Monday night.

Five people were killed in the crash, but there were conflicting reports as to whether Stevens was among the dead.

Palin said the region where the plane crashed is a very popular place to fly, but not the safest.

"The area is quite busy with float planes and bush pilots in and out because this is the world’s richest salmon spotting ground, the world’s richest salmon fishing ground, so very, very busy for flights in and out," Palin told Fox News. 

The number of planes in the area amid Alaska's remote mountains and lakes can be an obstacle at times, Palin said, as can the weather.

"No doubt the weather is lousy, overcast, probably 40 degrees or so," she said. "Lots of rain and fog in the area is quite typical."

Air travel, she says, also is typical, particularly in the DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter plane that the group was in.

"We have 3 million lakes in Alaska and one of the main ways of transportation are these small planes," she said. "An Otter is so typical, especially if you have 8 or more people -- we hop in an Otter."

But just as the area can be a dangerous place for passenger planes, it can also pose a danger to rescue aircraft.

"The rescue efforts are extremely challenging, very, very difficult," Palin said. "You‘ve got to hope for the best and pray for these rescuers that they don’t hit such adverse conditions that they, too,become part of the problem. And that’s quite typical in Alaska, too."

Stevens was one of two survivors in a 1978 plane crash at Anchorage International Airport that killed his wife, Ann, and several others. He remarried several years after the crash -- he and his second wife, Catherine, have a daughter, Lily.

"Pray for these victims, pray that there are survivors and pray for these rescuers making a heroic effort," Palin said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.