Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., the husband of Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, died on Tuesday when the plane he was piloting crashed in western Alaska, authorities said. He was 57.
According to the Alaska Department of Public Safety, state troopers were notified of a crash around 8:50 p.m. Tuesday, about 64 miles northeast of the village of St. Mary’s, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Eugene Peltola was the only person on the plane, the agency said in a statement.
“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,” Mary Peltola’s chief of staff, Anton McParland, said in a statement released on Wednesday. “He was one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything. He had a delightful sense of humor that lightened the darkest moments.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a single-engine Piper PA-18 crashed shortly after takeoff, The Washington Post reported. According to the FAA, only the pilot was on board the aircraft.
Two hunters at the scene of the crash provided aid to Eugene Peltola, but he died before a rescue team arrived, according to the newspaper.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Peltola had flown a hunter to the remote area in western Alaska. After taking off, the plane appeared “to have crashed in an area of remote, mountainous terrain,” the agency said.
The NTSB said the plane had “crashed under unknown circumstances,” The New York Times reported.
“The pilot was confirmed to be Peltola who was flying a Piper Supercub that crashed just after departure,” the Alaska Department of Public Safety said in its statement.
Eugene Peltola was the former regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for Alaska, serving in that position from 2018 to 2022, according to the Daily News. He spent 34 years before that working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska and served as vice mayor and council member for the city of Bethel from 2010 to 2012, the newspaper reported.
The Peltolas shared seven children and lived in Bethel, Alaska, according to the Post.
Mary Peltola made history as the state’s first woman in the House, the first Alaska Native -- she is Yup’ik -- and the first Democrat to hold the seat in a half-century, the newspaper reported. She beat a crowded field in a special election to finish the remaining term of the late Rep. Don Young in 2022.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a social media post that she was “shocked, saddened and truly beyond words to express my grief at the loss of Gene Peltola Jr.”
“Anyone who met Buzzy felt his warmth, generosity and charm,” Murkowski wrote. “It was easy to see why so many Alaskans called him a friend, and how he was so loved by his family.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he is mourning “the tragic loss of Gene.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy also shared condolences.
“He was our neighbor in Kotzebue decades ago and our paths continued to cross to this day,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “I knew Gene as a man who loved his family and put family first. He was smart, funny, hardworking and one of those guys you just enjoyed meeting up with. He dedicated his career to public service.”