7 dead, including state lawmaker, as 2 planes collide over Alaska

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A mid-air plane collision over Anchorage on Friday killed seven people, including a state lawmaker who was flying one of the planes, Alaska officials said.There were no survivors of the crash near the airport in Soldotna, a town on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska state soldiers said in a written statement.

State Representative Gary Knopp, who represented the area, was alone on one of the planes. The other plane was carrying four tourists from South Carolina, a guide from Kansas and a pilot from Soldotna, the soldiers said.

All seven victims were declared dead at the site, with the exception of one person who died while being transported to hospital, soldiers said.

Collision debris fell on a highway, which was briefly closed for safety reasons.

An aircraft rests in brush and trees after a mid-air collision outside Soldotna, Alaska on Friday. (Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion via AP)

The Federal Aviation Administration identified one of the planes as a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident.

Knopp, 67, was a Republican and a member of the bipartisan majority in the House of States. Several colleagues expressed their condolences.

“I am devastated and shocked to learn of the crash that claimed the life of Gary Knopp,” Speaker of the House 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 sadly missed. ”

Governor Mike Dunleavy immediately ordered that the flags of the United States and States be lowered to half the staff and remain in this position of honor until sunset Monday.

“The First Lady and I wish to express our sincere condolences to the family of Representative Knopp as they mourn his untimely passing,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “Throughout his 42 years on the Kenai Peninsula, Gary has grown into an avid outdoorsman, a seasoned pilot and a dedicated public servant. His presence will undoubtedly be missed by those he faithfully served.

The other victims were identified as pilot Gregory Bell, 67, guide David Rogers, 40, and visitors from South Carolina: Caleb Hulsey, 26; Heather Hulsey, 25; Mackay Hulsey, 24; and Kirstin Wright, 23.

The last fatal mid-air collision in Alaska occurred in May 2019 near Ketchikan. Six people, including a Canadian, were killed when two planes carrying cruise ship passengers on tourist expeditions collided. Ten survivors of this collision were rescued from the site.

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