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Rep. Mary Peltola's husband dies in plane crash in Alaska

The FAA and the NTSB said a single-engine plane crashed after takeoff Tuesday evening near St. Mary’s, a small city in western Alaska.
Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, at right, is sworn in alongside her husband, Gene Peltola, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the Capitol on Sept. 13, 2022.
Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, is sworn in alongside her husband, Gene, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the Capitol on Sept. 13, 2022.Francis Chung / E&E News/POLITICO via AP file

The husband of Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, has died in a plane accident in Alaska, her congressional office announced in a statement Wednesday morning.

"We are devastated to share that Mary's husband, Eugene Peltola Jr. — 'Buzzy' to all of us who knew and loved him — passed away earlier this morning following a plane accident in Alaska," Peltola's chief of staff, Anton McParland, said in a statement.

Responding to requests for comment, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said in separate statements that a single-engine plane crashed after takeoff around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday near St. Mary's, a small city in western Alaska.

"The pilot flew a hunter and the hunter’s equipment to a remote location 64 miles away from St. Mary’s. After leaving the hunter, the plane took off to return and appears to have crashed in an area of remote, mountainous terrain. The pilot was the only person on board," the NTSB said.

NTSB investigators are responding with the Alaska Army National Guard, the agency said.

"He was one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything. He had a delightful sense of humor that lightened the darkest moments. He was definitely the cook in the family," said the statement by Rep. Peltola's chief of staff. "He was completely devoted to his parents, kids, siblings, extended family and friends — and he simply adored Mary. We are heartbroken for the family's loss."

Mary Peltola is returning home to Alaska to be with her family, McParland said, and has asked for privacy. House members returned to Washington this week after a lengthy summer recess.

In a statement, the White House said President Joe Biden spoke to Peltola "and expressed his deepest condolences on the loss of her husband."

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he was "deeply saddened."

"The entire House Democratic Caucus is mourning the loss of Buzzy and we are lifting Mary and the Peltola family up in prayer. We will be there for her in any way she needs during this unimaginable time of tragedy," he said in a statement.

Mary Peltola, 50, has served in Congress since September 2022 after she won a special election to succeed Rep. Don Young, a Republican who died at 88 earlier in the year. Peltola, a former state legislator, beat GOP candidates Nick Begich and former Gov. Sarah Palin and became the first Alaska native to serve in Congress.

Peltola was then elected to a full two-year term in November, defeating Palin in the general election.

Several well-known politicians have died in Alaska plane crashes. In 1972, House Majority Leader Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., D-La., and Begich's grandfather, Rep. Nick Begich, D-Alaska, were aboard a small plane flying from Anchorage to Juneau when it disappeared. Neither the plane nor the passengers' remains were ever found.

In 2010, former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was killed in a plane crash along with four other people; four survived.