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Eugene 'Buzzy' Peltola Jr., husband of Rep. Mary Peltola, has died in a plane crash

Mary Peltola hugs her husband, Gene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (Photo by Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
Matt Faubion
Alaska Public Media
Mary Peltola hugs her husband, Gene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., as results are tallied on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022.

Updated at 10:38 a.m.

Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., husband of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, has died in a plane crash.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Buzzy was the pilot and sole occupant of a Piper PA-18-150 Super Cub that crashed under “unknown circumstances” just after 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

“The pilot flew a hunter and the hunter’s equipment to a remote location 64 miles away from St. Mary’s,” said National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesperson Sarah Sulick in a statement. “After leaving the hunter, the plane took off to return and appears to have crashed in an area of remote, mountainous terrain.”

The Alaska Air National Guard and NTSB investigators were trying to reach the crash site on Sept. 13, Sulick said.

In a media release, Anton McParland, Rep. Peltola’s chief of staff, said that the congresswoman was traveling to Alaska to be with her family. The Peltolas have seven children.

McParland said that Buzzy “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.”

Buzzy was born in Bethel. He was Tlingit and Yup’ik and a member of the Orutsararmiut Native Council who had a background in business and local government.

He worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led subsistence management, and he was the top Alaska official in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He retired last summer as his wife was running for office.

He recently joked that he was adjusting to his new job as “arm candy” to the congresswoman.

The congresswoman’s staff will continue to operate her office and meet with constituents while the family grieves, McParland said.

Condolences and remembrances for Buzzy poured in on Sept. 13.

The ANCSA Regional Association described him as a “beloved husband, father, and friend to so many, making an impact on everyone he met.”

“He lived a life of service, dedicated to Alaska Native people and his home of Bethel through his decades-long career in federal service and his years of local government and Alaska Native corporation leadership,” said a statement from the regional association.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowksi said “anyone who met Buzzy felt his warmth, generosity, and charm.”

“It was easy to see why so many Alaskans called him a friend, and how he was so loved by his family,” Murkowski posted on social media.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy both said in social media posts that they were shocked and saddened to learn of Buzzy’s death.

“Today, we mourn the tragic loss of Gene, and offer Mary and her family our heartfelt prayers for strength and consolation in this time of unspeakable loss and grief, and know that Alaskans across our great state are doing the same,” said Sullivan.

“We will be praying for Mary, their children, and all of the Peltola family. Gene’s dedication to Alaska ran deep, and he will be dearly missed,” said Dunleavy.

Alaska has a history of plane crashes affecting political figures, including the 1972 disappearance of a small plane in the Portage area carrying then-U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, the father oflate NPR journalist Cokie Roberts, and U.S. Rep. Nick Begich, former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich’s father.

Alaska’s longest-serving U.S. senator, Ted Stevens, was among five people killed when a floatplane carrying nine peoplecrashed north of Dillingham in 2010.

Stevens’ first wife, Ann Stevens, was among five people killed in a plane crash in Anchorage in 1978. The senator was injured, but survived.

Mary Peltola was elected to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Don Young, who died in March 2022 aboard an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle.

Alaska Public Media staff contributed to this reporting. This is a breaking news story that will be updated.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.