There are times, even in this day and age in the United States, where politics is placed aside in the face of tragedy.
That was the case this week when a Republican lawmaker from Alaska was tragically killed in a mid-air collision, Fox News reported.
Seven people, including an Alaska state lawmaker, died Friday when two small airplanes collided in midair near the airport in Soldotna, a small community on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
Alaska State Troopers said state Rep. Gary Knopp, 67, of Kenai was the sole occupant of one plane. The other plane was flown by a local pilot, and carried a guide from Kansas and four people from South Carolina.
“This is an unfathomable tragedy for multiple families today,” Amanda Price, the Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner, said. “Troopers and partner agencies have worked together diligently at the scene and have reached out to next of kin to notify them of this heartbreaking incident.”
“The First Lady and I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to Representative Knopp’s family as they mourn his untimely passing. Throughout his 42 years on the Kenai Peninsula, Gary became well known as an avid outdoorsman, a skilled pilot, & a dedicated public servant,” Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy said.
“His presence will no doubt be missed by those he faithfully served. I have ordered the United States flag and Alaska state flag to be flown at half-staff in honor of Representative Knopp for three days beginning immediately and ending at sunset on Monday, August 3,” he said.
Democrat House Speaker Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham expressed his shock and sadness at the tragedy.
“Gary was a one-of-a-kind leader and a true Alaskan who worked tirelessly for his district in the Legislature. He will be missed by many,” he said.
Republican Senate President Cathy Giessel said it was “a heart-breaking tragedy. More than a legislator, Gary Knopp was a husband, father, son, brother, grandfather, and friend. He will be tremendously missed.”
“Gary was more than a colleague, he was a close friend. I’m heartbroken and devastated, and thoughts are with Gary’s wife, Helen, and his entire family,” Rep. Louise Stutes said.
“Gary Knopp was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. This is heartbreaking news, and he will truly be missed,” Rep. Steve Thompson said.
“I’m praying for Gary, his wife Helen, and everyone impacted by today’s tragic crash,” Rep. Chuck Kopp said.
The Federal Transportation Commission is investigating the accident in which six other people, pilot Gregory Bell, 57, guide David Rogers, 40, Caleb Hulsey, 26, Heather Hulsey, 25, Mackay Hulsey, 24, and Kirstin Wright, 23, were killed.
“We live in a small, tight community here in the Central Peninsula. When I heard the horrific sounds of a plane crash this morning, which occurred very close to my home, I knew there was a high probability it involved someone we knew well,” state Sen. Peter Micciche said.
“I have known Gary Knopp and Greg Bell for most of my life. Gary has served the Kenai Peninsula community for decades. I have flown with Greg and never felt to be in better, more safety-focused hands while in the air. We are reeling from the loss to our community,” the senator said.