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Midair plane collision in Alaska kills 7, including state legislator

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 2 days ago Joseph Wilkinson
a group of people in a forest: A plane rests in brush and trees after a midair collision outside of Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday. © Jeff Helminiak A plane rests in brush and trees after a midair collision outside of Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday.

Seven people, including an Alaska state lawmaker, died when two small planes collided in midair Friday morning.

Rep. Gary Knopp, 67, was the sole occupant of one plane, the Alaska public safety department announced. The other carried local pilot Gregory Bell, 57, guide David Rogers, 40, and Caleb Hulsey, Heather Hulsey, Mackay Hulsey and Kirstin Wright, all in their 20s from South Carolina.

The planes were flying near Soldotna Airport, about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage in Alaska’s central peninsula.

The crash occurred around 8:30 a.m. local time, and multiple people witnessed it from the ground.

“I ran to more of a clearing and basically saw it explode. The engine, things were flying off of it. I didn’t see the second plane, but I saw a lot of debris flying around,” Rita Geller told the Anchorage Daily News. “It was horrific. It was just like 9/11.”

Though some wreckage landed on nearby Sterling Highway, most came down about 200 yards from the road, ADN reported. Six people died at the scene, while the seventh person died en route to the hospital.

Knopp was a flight instructor and a pilot in addition to his work in the legislature, according to the news outlet.

Numerous agencies are investigating the crash, including the NTSB and the FAA. Authorities said Knoff was flying a Piper PA-12 while Bell piloted a Havilland DHC-2 Beaver.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff until Monday.

With News Wire Services

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