Alaska News

Federal team begins inquiry into plane crash that killed husband of Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola

The plane crash Tuesday evening that killed Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., husband of Alaska’s U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, occurred on a flight by the 57-year-old pilot to ferry a load of moose meat out of a remote hunting camp, authorities said Thursday.

A federal team of investigators isn’t expected to get to the site until Friday.

Peltola initially survived the crash and received medical care from two hunters at the camp in Southwest Alaska where the crash occurred, authorities said.

The 57-year-old was the pilot and only person aboard the Piper Super Cub that went down about 64 miles northeast of the village of St. Mary’s in mountainous terrain. Alaska State Troopers described the crash site as approximately two miles west of East Fork Andreafsky River.

The hunters removed Peltola from the damaged plane, troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel said in an email Thursday.

About two hours later, they notified the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center via InReach satellite device that “they no longer could detect any vital signs,” Alaska National Guard spokesman Alan Brown said.

An Alaska Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed at the crash site at about 1:50 a.m. Wednesday, according to Brown. The crew confirmed the absence of vital signs, he said.


Federal aviation investigators initially described the crash as taking place just after Peltola dropped off a hunter at the camp. On Thursday, troopers said it actually occurred while he was picking up a second load of moose meat to bring out of the field after both hunters finished their hunt.

The first report of the crash came just after 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said. An emergency beacon aboard the plane alerted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center that dispatches Alaska National Guard search and rescue teams, Brown said. The Pave Hawk finished another mission, a rescue of a pilot injured in a plane crash near Palmer, before responding to Southwest Alaska, he said.

The rescue crew flew from the crash site to McGrath, where they transferred Peltola’s body and the passengers onto an Air National Guard HC-130 aircraft. The plane landed back in Anchorage around 5:15 a.m. Wednesday and the body was transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office, Brown said.

Peltola held a commercial pilot certification originally issued in 2004, according to an FAA database. The plane that crashed was not registered in Peltola’s name. The owner did not respond to requests for comment.

The crash marks the sixth fatal plane crash in Alaska this year, according to an NTSB database.

A federal team has arrived in Anchorage to begin looking into the circumstances surrounding the crash.

The team hopes to get to the scene on Friday, weather permitting, according to National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Sarah Sulick. The four-person team includes NTSB investigator Eliott Simpson as well as a Federal Aviation Administration investigator and representatives from Piper Aircraft and engine maker Lycoming, Sulick said.

The federal investigators will be documenting the wreckage site, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, gathering weather data and analyzing any equipment on the plane that could help them learn more about the flight, she said. The wreckage will be taken to another location for examination.

Rep. Peltola flew home to Alaska on Wednesday. Peltola, who is Yup’ik, last year became the first Alaska Native member of Congress and the first woman to hold Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat.

Gene Peltola Jr., who was Yup’ik and Tlingit, spent more than 30 years working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before becoming regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for Alaska, serving in that position from 2018 to 2022. Among other roles, he served as vice mayor and council member for the city of Bethel between 2010 and 2012 and sat on various Alaska Native village corporation boards.

After retiring in 2022 from his work for federal agencies, Peltola co-founded Alaska Carbon Solutions, a consulting firm focused on carbon sequestration.

In a remembrance Wednesday on KNBA radio’s “Native America Calling” show, LaMont Albertson praised his friend’s character, gift for subsistence education and the respect he drew from elders along the Kuskokwim River.

“It’s impossible to exaggerate how smart he was,” Albertson told host Shawn Spruce, describing Peltola’s innate curiousity. “He was a leader of men.”

Alaskans and others around the country reached out to Rep. Peltola’s office to express condolences, a spokesperson said Thursday.

“Alaska is a tight-knit state that relies on planes for basic travel, and so many Alaskans have felt the impact of an accident like this,” Rep. Peltola’s chief of staff, Anton McParland, said in a statement. “That doesn’t make it any less devastating, but it does mean we know how to support one another.”

Nana Regional Corp., the Kotzebue-based Alaska Native corporation, issued a statement Thursday that said Peltola was known throughout Northwest Alaska and was considered “family to many in the region” after raising his family there for more than a decade. “His generosity and warm spirit will not be forgotten, nor will his dedication to advancing Alaska Native co-management and protecting our subsistence way of life,” the statement said.

In statements Thursday, state Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, called Peltola a “caring and loving family man” and Rules Committee co-chair Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, described him as a “pilot, fisherman, and Alaska Native leader” who “embodied the spirit of Alaska.”


McParland’s statement Thursday expressed gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy and also provided instructions for others who wanted to send condolences.

“To everyone who has reached out, from Alaska to D.C. and everywhere in between, thank you,” McParland wrote. “You have made a dark time just a little lighter.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of LaMont Albertson.

Daily News reporter Riley Rogerson contributed to this story.

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Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at