Breaking News. Eugene "Buzzy" Peltola, the husband of Rep. Mary Peltola (D), died on Wednesday morning after the single-engine plane he was flying crashed shortly after takeoff in a mountainous area of southwestern Alaska, officials said. Affectionately known as Buzzy, Mr. Peltola was 57.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Peltola was the pilot and sole occupant of a Piper PA-18 Super Cub that crashed under “unknown circumstances” around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. He took a hunter and the hunter’s equipment to a remote location 64 miles away from the Western Alaska village of St. Mary’s.  After dropping off the hunter, he took off and the crash occured. 

Two hunters at the scene of the crash provided medical care, but Peltola died before a rescue team arrived early Wednesday, they said. 

“After leaving the hunter, the plane took off to return and appears to have crashed in an area of remote, mountainous terrain,” said the statement from NTSB spokesperson Sarah Sulick.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash.

“He was one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything,” Ms. Peltola’s chief of staff, Anton McParland, said in the statement. “He had a delightful sense of humor that darkened the lightest moments. He was definitely the cook in the family. And family was most important to him.”

Just two days ago, Rep. Peltola joined joined President Biden in a ceremony to commemorate 9/11 and flew to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One at the invitation of the president. On Wednesday, the president called her to give his and his wife's condolences. 

"Today, I spoke with her with that world shattered in shock and sadness. To the family – such a loss is cruel and unfair, and the first hours, days, and weeks will be the hardest," the president said in a White House statement.

To Rep. Peltola, President Biden said: "We hope you remember that he will always be with you. And we pray the day will come when his memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes. It will take time, but that day will come."

Rep. Peltola, the first elected Alaska Native to serve in the U.S. Congress was in Washington, D.C. when the accident occurred and will return to Alaska, according to her congressional office.

In September 2022, Rep. Peltola won a special election and became the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress and the first female representative elected by her district. She was born in Alaska and raised on the Kuskokwim River in Kwethluk, Tuntutuliak, Platinum, and Bethel. 

Peltola was the former regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for Alaska, serving in that position from 2018 to 2022. Prior to his employment with the BIA, he spent 34 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. Among other roles, he served as vice mayor and council member for the city of Bethel between 2010 and 2012 and sat on various Alaska Native village corporation boards.

The Navajo Nation Council released a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Congresswoman Peltola’s beloved husband. The Navajo Nation Council offers our condolences and prayers to her and the family. We pray that they can find comfort in knowing that their loved one is now with our Creator. She has been a tremendous advocate on many issues for tribes including the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation Speaker Crystalyne Curley said in the statement. 

Editor's Note: This is a breaking story. More information will be added to the article as it becomes available.



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Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].