August 1, 2020 | 1:36am | Updated August 1, 2020 | 2:08am
An Alaska state lawmaker and six others were killed when two small planes collided in midair about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage on Friday, authorities said.
Rep. Gary Knopp, 67, a member of the state House of Representatives, was piloting one of the two aircrafts without passengers, according to Alaska State Troopers.
The other plane was flown by a local pilot and carried a guide from Kansas and four people from South Carolina.
There were no survivors.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the tragic crash, which occurred just before 8:30 a.m. over the small Alaskan community of Soldotna.
“This is an unfathomable tragedy for multiple families today,” Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price said.
Besides Knopp, troopers identified the other six people killed as pilot Gregory Bell, 57, of Soldotna; guide David Rogers, 40, of Kansas; and Caleb Hulsey, 26; Heather Hulsey, 25; Mackay Hulsey, 24, and Kirstin Wright, 23, all of South Carolina.
Bell was a co-owner of High Adventure Air Charter in Soldotna, which offers bear viewing adventures, fishing and hunting trips and glacier tours, according to its website.
Troopers say six of the seven people were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The seventh person died on the way to a hospital.
The Federal Aviation Administration sent investigators to the crash site, about two miles northeast of the Soldotna airport.
The two planes involved were a single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and a Piper PA-12, the authorities said.
State Sen. Peter Micciche said he knew Knopp, a Republican who served the Kenai Peninsula community for decades, as well as Bell, a charter-owner he’d flown with in the past.
“We live in a small, tight community here in the Central Peninsula. When I heard the horrific sounds of a plane crash this morning … I knew there was a high probability it involved someone we knew well,” Micciche said in a statement.
“We are reeling from the loss to our community.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered the U.S. and state flags to fly at half-staff until sunset Monday in honor of Knopp.
“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.”
With Post Wires