Kenai-Soldotna legislator among seven killed in mid-air collision

Jul 31, 2020

Rep. Gary Knopp of Kenai
Credit Alaska Legislature

    House District 30 Representative Gary Knopp of Kenai was killed in a mid-air collision today (Friday) near Sterling. He was reportedly flying his own Piper PA-23 Aztec, a twin-engine prop plane when it collided with a DeHavilland Beaver about a couple miles northeast of Soldotna near the Sterling Highway.

Knopp was alone in his twin-engine aircraft. Six others were killed in the other plane. They've been identified as pilot Gregory Bell, 67 of Soldotna; guide David Rogers, 40 of Kansas; Caleb Hulsey, 26 of South Carolina; Heather Hulsey, 25 of South Carolina; Mackay Hulsey 24 of South Carolina and Kirstin Wright, 23 of South Carolina.

    Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Kelly Cooper of Homer, who served with Knopp on the assembly before he was elected to the state legislature, said he was a good friend.

    “He was a brave and courageous legislator who was always truthful. He didn’t mince words, and he did what was right for all Alaskans,” Cooper said. “He wasn’t a partisan person. He responded to every person in Alaska and served our peninsula very well. And he will be greatly missed.”

    Cooper said she was heart-broken for Knopp’s wife, Helen. 

“She’s an amazing woman, and they had a long and happy marriage. She was very protective of her Gary, as nasty as politics can get,” Cooper said. “Helen was his biggest defender and it’s a horrible loss for her.”

    Knopp had lived in Alaska since 1979. He was a general contractor and certified flight instructor. Knopp served on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for seven years, and was elected to the Alaska State House in 2016. He was seeking his third term this year.