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Mid-air plane collision kills 7, including Alaska state rep.

Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A mid-air collision between two small planes on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula left seven people dead, including a state congressman, local officials said.

The crash happened around 8:30 a.m. Friday in Soldotna, with debris temporarily closing Sterling Highway. The majority of the planes' wreckage was about 200 yards from the roadway, the Alaska Department of Public Safety said.

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Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp, 67, was the pilot and sole occupant of one of the planes. The other aircraft had six people -- pilot Gregory Bell, 57, of Soldotna; guide David Rogers, 40, of Kansas; and Caleb Hulsey, 26, Heather Husley, 25, Mackay Hulsey, 24, and Kirstin Wright, 23, all of South Carolina.

One passenger initially survived the crash but later succumbed to their injuries. All seven died.

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"This is an unfathomable tragedy for multiple families today," said DPS Commissioner Amanda Price. "The DPS sends a heartfelt condolence to all who lost a loved one in this mid-air collision.

"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."

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half staff for three days in honor of Knopp, who served on the state Legislature since 2016.

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"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," he tweeted.

"His presence will no doubt be missed by those he faithfully served."

DPS said the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the crash.

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