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Husband of Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola dies in plane crash

<i>Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images/File</i><br/>Rep. Mary Peltola hugs her husband Eugene
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images/File
Rep. Mary Peltola hugs her husband Eugene "Buzzy" Petola

By Shawna Mizelle, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., the husband of Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola, has died in a plane crash in Alaska, according to a statement from the congresswoman’s office.

“He was one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything. He had a delightful sense of humor that lightened the darkest moments. He was definitely the cook in the family. And family was most important to him. 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,” the statement, which was shared to Peltola’s X account Wednesday morning, said.

The statement asked for privacy for the Peltola family and said the congresswoman will be heading home to Alaska.

Preliminary information provided by National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Jennifer Homendy Wednesday afternoon revealed that the plane crashed in a remote and mountainous region of Alaska 64 miles north of St. Mary’s. The pilot was the only person onboard and had flown a hunter and equipment into the area. An emergency locator beacon transmission was received by Alaska officials at 8:48 p.m. Tuesday night.

Although Homendy declined to name the pilot, she referred questions about their identity to the congresswoman’s statement.

Eugene Peltola was the regional director of the Alaska Bureau of Indian Affairs for several years before retiring in 2022.

In a statement Wednesday, President Joe Biden said that he had spoken with the congresswoman and offered his condolences.

“Buzzy was a devoted public servant and in the tributes coming from all over the state today, he is being remembered as a friend to all. But we know he was, first and always, the adored and devoted husband and father to a family now in pain,” he said.

Rep. Peltola and her daughter had joined Biden in Anchorage, Alaska, Monday to commemorate the September 11, 2001, attacks.

“On Monday, Mary flew back with me to Washington on Air Force One with the whole world ahead of her,” the president said. “Today, I spoke with her with that world shattered in shock and sadness.”

Biden himself lost a spouse in a tragic accident early in his political career – his first wife, Neilia Biden, was killed in a car crash in 1972 that also claimed the life of his daughter Naomi.

Members of Congress also offered their condolences Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who also represents Alaska, said in a post on X 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. It was easy to see why so many Alaskans called him a friend, and how he was so loved by his family.”

“My heart goes out to Mary and her family during this profoundly difficult loss. Mary has been an exceptional colleague, and it’s clear her husband Buzzy touched so many lives with his warmth and kindness,” Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California tweeted.

Peltola’s death continues a tragic history with politicians and plane incidents in the state. In 1972, a plane carrying House majority leader Hale Boggs and Alaska Rep. Nicholas Begich disappeared between Anchorage and Juneau and was never recovered. Decades later, in 2010, former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was killed in a plane crash on a remote Alaska mountain.

In 2020, NTSB revealed that from 2008 to 2017, the total aviation accident rate in Alaska was 2.35 times higher than for the rest of the United States, with a fatal accident rate that was 1.34 times higher.

This story has been updated with additional details.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s DJ Judd, Gregory Wallace and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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