The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation after an aircraft crashed “under unknown circumstances” in Alaska, killing the husband of a U.S. congresswoman.
The NTSB has also named the FAA, Piper Aircraft, and Lycoming engines as parties to the investigation, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a briefing Wednesday.
The Piper PA-18 150 Super Cub piloted by Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., 57 and husband of Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola, went down shortly after takeoff around 8:45 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time Tuesday, approximately 64 miles north of St. Mary’s, Homendy said.
St, Mary’s is located north of Bethel, Alaska, in mountainous terrain.
Citing preliminary information, Homendy said Peltola had flown to the remote area to drop off a hunter with their equipment. Peltola was departing the area and was alone in the airplane when it went down shortly after takeoff.
Witnesses to the accident will be interviewed by the NTSB, she said.
The NTSB said the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson received a satellite signal from the airplane’s emergency locator transmitter at 8:48 p.m. ADT and deployed an Alaska Air National Guard rescue team, which arrived at the scene early Wednesday.
Alaska State Troopers reported that Peltola initially survived the accident and was cared for by two hunters, but he succumbed to his injuries before additional help could arrive.
Because of the remote location, there are no reports of weather in the area at the time of the accident. According to Timetable.com, sunset was approximately 9:29 p.m. ADT.
Peltola was issued a commercial pilot’s certificate in 2004, according to The New York Times.
Homendy noted it is unclear if the flight was conducted under Part 91 or Part 135. Local media noted that Eugene Peltola had recently retired from his position as regional director of Alaska’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The accident follows calls by the NTSB for improvement to aviation safety in Alaska. In 2020, the agency reported that the accident rate is 2.35 times higher and the fatal accident rate 1.34 higher in the state than the rest of the U.S.
“Whether it is a Part 135 flight or a pleasure trip, all pilots must deal with Alaska’s challenging geography and weather,” former NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at the time of the report. “We need to give them all the tools and resources to do so safely.”