Republican Alaska State Rep. Gary Knopp was killed Friday morning when a plane he was piloting collided with another small plane in midair, The Hill reported.
The 67-year-old lawmaker was the only one aboard his Piper PA-12, according to The Hill. Five passengers and a pilot in the other plane, a single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, also died in the collision, The Hill noted. There were no survivors.
A crash in midair
The crash occurred around 8:30 a.m. local time near the Soldotna Airport in Alaska. Multiple witnesses reported the crash, which occurred near the Sterling Highway and caused it to be temporarily closed due to debris falling on the road, according to a statement from the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
The incident is now under investigation.
In addition to Knopp, those killed in the crash included the pilot of the Beaver, 57-year-old Gregory Bell, as well as 40-year-old guide David Rogers, The Hill reported. Also killed were 26-year-old Caleb Hulsey, 25-year-old Heather Hulsey, 24-year-old Mackay Hulsey, and 23-year-old Kirstin Wright, all of whom were visiting Alaska from South Carolina, according to The Hill.
A “tragic accident”
The de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver belonged to High Adventure Air Charter, a company based in Soldotna that does guided fishing and bear tours, scenic aerial flights, and charters, according to their website and Facebook page.
The charter plane flown by Bell had pontoons and was designed to make water landings, The Hill reported. Weather reports for the area showed clear visibility at the time of the crash.
“At this time, High Adventure Air is working to support the families involved and is working with the National Transportation Safety Board who is investigating the accident,” High Adventure Air said in a statement following the incident, according to The Hill. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families involved in this tragic accident.”
“An unfathomable tragedy”
Alaska Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner Amanda Price, for her part, called the crash “an unfathomable tragedy for multiple families.”
“The DPS sends a heartfelt condolence to all who lost a loved one in this mid-air collision,” she said in a statement.
According to The Hill, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) also responded to reports of the crash, writing in a tweet:
Rose and I are heartbroken for the families of today’s victims, and I can assure them that investigators will have the State’s full cooperation as they begin to unravel this morning’s tragic events.