The flags are flying at half-staff in Alaska after a tragic accident has left seven dead.
Gary Knopp, a Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives, was one of seven people killed in a mid-air plane collision, according to the Washington Examiner.
Tragedy strikes in Alaska
Knopp, 67, was reportedly flying alone. The other plane was piloted by Gregory Bell, 57, who was also an Alaskan resident. Bell had five passengers with him, including David Rogers, 40 (Kansas), Caleb Hulsey, 26 (S.C), Heather Hulsey, 25 (S.C.), Mackay Hulsey, 24 (S.C.), and Kirstin Wright, 23 (S.C.).
The accident occurred southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Around 8:30 a.m., a twin-engine Piper Aztec and a Havilland DHC-2 Beaver collided, killing everyone aboard both planes.
The collision was witnessed by a nearby golf course attendant, Rita Geller. She stated, “The first thing was I heard a really loud, metallic clang. 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.”
She further described the accident as “horrible” and that she “couldn’t believe” what she was seeing unfold right before her very eyes.
Knopp had not been in politics very long, but he had definitely found loyal supporters. He moved to Alaska in 1979 but did not enter the local political scene until running for a local office in 2006.
In 2016, Knopp sat for the first time in the Alaska House of Representatives and was among the most respected members in the House.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a statement: “The First Lady and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to Representative Knopp’s family as they mourn his untimely passing. 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.”
Sen. Peter Micciche also issued a statement, writing, “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.”
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 https://t.co/L4Tgy1j8xI pic.twitter.com/3xOUrxd5RH
— AlaskaSenateMajority (@AKSenMajority) July 31, 2020
Rest peace, Mr. Knopp, and thank you for your service.