SOLDOTNA, ALASKA (FOX Carolina) Alaskan state officials say seven people were killed when two planes collided over the Kenai Peninsula Friday morning, including four passengers from South Carolina.
According to a press release from the Alaska Department of Public Safety, the mid-air collision happened around 8:30 a.m. local time over Soldotna. The initial plane crash was near mile 91.5 of the Sterling Highway, which was shut down temporarily due to safety concerns. Most of the wreckage was found 200 yards from the road, and had multiple witnesses reporting it. The release indicated multiple agencies, from local police and state troopers to the FAA, have all responded.
Alaska State Troopers say one plane involved had a single occupant, while the other aircraft had six people onboard. While one person was found alive on the scene, that initial survivor passed away, succumbing to injuries en route to the local hospital.
Those who passed away were identified as follows:
- Alaska state Representative Gary Knopp of Kenai, the sole occupant in one plane
- Gregory Bell, 67, of Soldotna, the pilot of the other plane
- David Rogers, a 40-year-old guide from Kansas
- Caleb Hulsey, age 26, from South Carolina
- Heather Hulsey, age 25, from South Carolina
- Mackay Hulsey, age 24, of South Carolina
- Kirstin Wright, age 23, of South Carolina
According to family and friends, the Hulsey family was on vacation during the time.
The family provided a statement on the four victims:
"Both couples were high school sweethearts.
Caleb and Heather started dating in 2010 and recently got married in 2019. Mackay and Kirsten have been dating since 2011 and had plans to get married.
They all had a love of each other and their families and animals and traveled all over the world together with Heather, Alan and Harrison.
Caleb worked with his father at palmetto SoundWorks and Mackay was a personal trainer. Heather was an art teacher at Dawkins middle school and Kirsten worked for pinnacle hospitality as a social media director.
Caleb and Heather were in the process of purchasing a home, a bigger home to start their family.
Family is requesting that in lieu of flowers or anything else that donations are made to Christmas In Action. Contact information is Cindy Barrett which the entire family was involved with extensively for the past 10 years.”
Saturday morning, Spartanburg County School District Six Superintendent Owings announced via Facebook that Heather Husley was an art teacher at Dawkins Middle School.
The District Six family is heartbroken after learning that a Dawkins Middle school art teacher, Heather Hulsey, passed away in a plane accident during a trip to Alaska. Heather was an inspiring teacher who had a tremendous impact on her students and colleagues. She was a wonderful person who was well-loved by our school community. Heather’s husband, Caleb Hulsey, his brother Mackay, and friend, Kirstin Wright, also passed away. The Hulsey family is strongly connected to our District Six family. This is a tragedy beyond words. We ask that you keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Dr. Darryl Owings
District Six Superintendent
The NTSB was notified and will begin their investigation, per Alaska DPS.
“This is an unfathomable tragedy for multiple families today. The DPS sends a heartfelt condolence to all who lost a loved one in this mid-air collision,” said Commissioner Amanda Price, Department of Public Safety. “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.”
In a series of tweets, Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy expressed his condolences for those who where killed in the collision.
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. (1/2)— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) July 31, 2020
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. (2/2)— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) July 31, 2020
I have received confirmation that, in addition to the tragic death of Rep. Knopp, six others lost their lives in the mid-air collision above Soldotna this morning. Among them was a family visiting Alaska from South Carolina, fishing guide David Rogers of Kansas...(1/2)— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) July 31, 2020
...and local pilot Greg Bell, a much-loved, longtime resident of the Kenai. Rose and I are heartbroken for the families of today's victims, and I can assure them that investigators will have the State's full cooperation as they begin to unravel this morning's tragic events. (2/2)— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) July 31, 2020
The crash Friday happened more than seven years after another similarly tragic incident. In July 2013, two families from Greenville were killed near Soldotna after a small, single-engine plane crashed on takeoff at the local airport, claiming the lives of two families.
To support the loved ones of the victims of the Alaskan plane crash, go to their GoFundMe here.
To support the loved ones of the Hulsey, Dillard, and Wright families, go to their GoFundMe here.
Stay tuned for updates on this story as we get them.