Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to correct the ages of Rep. Gary Knopp and Gregory Bell.
4:00 P.M. Update: Alaska’s Department of Public Safety has released more details about the crash, including the names of all seven victims.
Rep. Gary Knopp, 63, of Kenai, was the sole occupant of one plane. The six people in the other aircraft who died are pilot Gregory Bell, 57, of Soldotna; guide David Rogers, 40, of Kansas, Caleb Hulsey, 26, of South Carolina; Heather Hulsey, 25, of South Carolina; Mackay Hulsey, 24 of South Carolina; and Kirstin Wright, 23, of South Carolina.
Original story: Local politician Gary Knopp and at least one other person died in a mid-air plane crash that occurred in Soldotna Friday morning. The Clarion did not have confirmation on how many others died as a result of the incident.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management first reported the crash at around 9 a.m. via Facebook, stating that the Sterling Highway had been closed at Mile 91.5 at Mayoni Street to respond to a plane crash. The Borough’s public information officer Brenda Ahlberg told the Clarion that two planes had collided in mid-air, and first responders were on scene to investigate the crash and clear the area.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration reported that a single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and an unidentified aircraft collided in mid-air at around 8:30 a.m., but the FAA did not have any information on the numbers or identities of the people involved. Two FAA safety inspectors were at the crash site. The National Transportation Safety Board would be in charge of the investigation to determine a probable cause at the incident, according to the statement.
Bruce Richards, public information officer for Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, said one person from the crash had been transported to the hospital for treatment and later died.
Just before noon on Friday, members of the Alaska Legislature confirmed that Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai/Soldotna, was involved in the plane crash. Multiple people have also confirmed that one of the pilots involved in the crash was Greg Bell, owner of High Adventure Air Charter in Soldotna.
Knopp has represented District 30 of the Alaska State Legislature since 2016 and previously served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly from 2006-2012 and again in 2015.
Investigation into the crash is ongoing, and this story will updated as details are released.