7 killed, including state lawmaker, as 2 planes collide over Alaska
Rep. Gary Knopp among victims of mid-air crash
A mid-air plane collision over Alaska on Friday killed seven people, including a state lawmaker who was piloting one of the aircraft, state officials said.
There were no survivors of the crash near the airport in Soldotna, a city on the Kenai Peninsula, the Alaska State Troopers said in a written statement.
State Rep. Gary Knopp, who represented the area, was alone in one of the planes. The other plane was carrying four tourists from South Carolina, a guide from Kansas and a pilot from Soldotna, the troopers said.
All seven victims were pronounced dead at the site except for one person who died while being transported to a hospital, according to the troopers.
Crash debris fell on a highway, which was shut down briefly out of safety concerns.
The Federal Aviation Administration identified one of the planes as a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
Knopp, 67, was a Republican and a member of the state House bipartisan majority. Several colleagues expressed condolences.
"I'm devastated and shocked to learn of the crash that claimed Gary Knopp's life," House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent, said in a statement. "Gary was a one-of-a-kind leader and a true Alaskan who worked tirelessly for his district in the Legislature. He will be missed by many."
Gov. Mike Dunleavy immediately ordered U.S. and state flags to be lowered to half staff and to remain in that position of honour until sunset Monday.
"The first lady and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to Rep. Knopp's family as they mourn his untimely passing," Dunleavy said in a statement. "Throughout his 42 years on the Kenai Peninsula, Gary became well known as an avid outdoorsman, a skilled pilot, and a dedicated public servant. His presence will no doubt be missed by those he faithfully served."
The First Lady and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to Representative Knopp's family as they mourn his untimely passing. Throughout his 42 years on the Kenai Peninsula, Gary became well known as an avid outdoorsman, a skilled pilot, & a dedicated public servant. (1/2)—@GovDunleavy
The other victims were identified as pilot Gregory Bell, 67, guide David Rogers, 40, and the South Carolina visitors: Caleb Hulsey, 26; Heather Hulsey, 25; Mackay Hulsey, 24; and Kirstin Wright, 23.
The last fatal mid-air collision in Alaska happened in May of 2019 near Ketchikan. Six people, including a Canadian, were killed when two planes ferrying cruise ship passengers on sightseeing expeditions struck each other. Ten survivors of that collision were rescued from the site.
With files from The Associated Press