House Majority: Alaska Rep. Gary Knopp killed in plane crash
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp was killed in the mid-air collision of two planes near Soldotna on Friday, the Alaska House Majority said in a statement.
Alaska State Troopers would not confirm Knopp’s death beyond saying the mid-air collision near the airport in Soldotna was a fatal crash.
The two planes collided near the Soldotna Airport Friday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. Wreckage came down near the Sterling Highway, briefly closing the thoroughfare.
Officials have not released how many people were on board the two planes or the extent of injuries.
Tributes began pouring for Knopp soon after the news broke. Gov. Mike Dunleavy immediately ordered the U.S. and state flags to be lowered to half staff and to remain in that position of honor 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.”
“I’m devastated and shocked to learn of the crash that claimed Gary Knopp’s life,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham said. “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.”
Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak said Knopp was not only a colleague, but a close friend. “I’m heartbroken and devastated, and thoughts are with Gary’s wife, Helen, and his entire family.”
“A single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and a twin-engine Piper Aztec collided in mid-air approximately 2 miles northeast of Soldotna Airport,” the FAA statement said after the 8:30 a.m. crash.
Alaska State Troopers on scene were feeding information back to a National Transportation Safety Board investigator in Anchorage immediately after the crash, said Clint Johnson, head of the NTSB’s Alaska division.
The FAA sent two investigators to the crash site, which is about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula.
The NTSB will investigate the accident and determine a probable cause.