Alaska GOP Lawmaker Killed in Mid-Air Collision, Officials Say


Republican state Representative-elect Gary Knopp sits in his office at the Alaska Capitol on Jan. 16, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska.Becky Bohrer / APRepublican state Representative-elect Gary Knopp sits in his office at the Alaska Capitol on Jan. 16, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. (Becky Bohrer / AP)

A mid-air collision in Alaska on Friday killed seven people, including an Alaska state lawmaker.

Republican Gary Knopp, a member of Alaska’s House of Representatives, was killed in the crash, which took place on the Kenai Peninsula southwest of Anchorage near the community of Soldotna, according to a news release on the House majority’s website.

Knopp was flying solo. All six people in the other plane were killed. Alaska state troopers identified the dead in the other plane as Gregory Bell of Soldotna, 67, who was the pilot; David Rogers, 40, of Kansas; and Caleb Hulsey, 26; Heather Hulsey, 25; Mackay Hulsey, 24; and Kirstin Wright, 23, all of whom were from South Carolina, according to KTUU-TV.

The collision between the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and a twin-engine Piper Aztec took place at about 8:30 a.m. local time.

Rita Geller, a shop attendant at the local Birch Ridge Golf Course, said she saw one plane go down after hearing the crash.

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“The first thing was I heard a really loud, metallic clang,” she said. “And I looked up and I saw a plane going down and I ran around a tree to get a better look and I could see the plane blowing apart.”

Geller said she will pray for the victims and their families.

“That just what a horrible, horrible thing I just saw,” Geller said. “I’m still kind of shook up by it. I was in shock. My knees felt weak. I couldn’t believe I was seeing that and it reminded me of that shock of 911 that you can’t believe what you’re seeing the plane was exploding.”

Kevin Carpenter, the owner of Sundog Serigraphics-Screenprinting, said debris from the crash landed in his parking lot.

He said Friday morning’s weather was good, The New York Times reported.

“For the life of me, I can’t figure it out,” he said of the crash.

Many took to Twitter to express their condolences.

Sen. Micciche: My family and I are heartbroken to learn of the loss of Representative Gary Knopp, Greg Bell, and the other lost souls due to this morning’s collision #akleg

— AlaskaSenateMajority (@AKSenMajority) July 31, 2020

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A politician without ego who always said exactly what he thought. No games. No glory. Just do the work. RIP Rep. Gary Knopp. We will miss you and your leadership. #akleg

— Representative Sara Hannan (@RepSaraHannan) July 31, 2020

Rep. Gary Knopp was a profoundly good person who had more integrity than most. Gary could always be counted on to do what was right even when it would cost him dearly. Always had a wink and a smile in even the toughest moments. Words cannot express my grief. Godspeed my friend.

— Ivy Spohnholz (@IvySpohnholz) July 31, 2020

Knopp was born in Whitefish, Montana, and moved to Alaska in 1979, according to his official House biography.

He was elected in 2006 to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2016.

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