U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola’s husband has died in an airplane crash, her office said in a statement Wednesday.
“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,” her chief of staff, Anton McParland, said in the statement.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is investigating the crash of a Piper PA 18-150 Super Cub that went down at 8:48 p.m. Tuesday under unknown circumstances near St. Mary’s, Alaska. St. Mary's is located about 440 miles (708.11 kilometers) west of Anchorage.
“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 NTSB said in a statement.
The pilot was the only person on board.
NTSB investigators were responding to the scene with the Alaska National Guard. The agency leaves identifying victims to local officials, but NTSB chairperson Jennifer Homendy held a news conference Wednesday to speak about a crash in western Alaska that killed the pilot who was the only person aboard, presumed to be Eugene Peltola Jr.
The congresswoman was returning to Alaska from Washington, D.C., to be with her family, and McParland asked for their privacy as the family grieves.
“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,” McParland said.
Peltola, an Alaska Democrat, was elected to a full term in the U.S. House in November, months after winning a special election following the death of U.S. Rep. Don Young. The Republican had held Alaska’s sole House seat for 49 years until his death.
Peltola, who is Yup'ik, is the first Alaska Native to serve in the U.S. House.