Rep. Gary Knopp among those killed in aircraft collision

Rep. Gary Knopp.

Editor’s note: The loss of Rep. Gary Knopp has left us shocked and saddened. After winning the “Who?” award in our inaugural legislator rankings, Knopp stepped into an important role in the Legislature and proved us all wrong for thinking he was forgettable. Gary was anything but forgettable. Our thoughts are with his family. Hug your loved ones and take care.  

Kenai Republican Rep. Gary Knopp was killed in a midmorning aircraft collision, the House Majority confirmed today in a news release.

Knopp was killed when two aircraft crashed approximately two miles northeast of the Soldotna airport this morning. The number of other people in the planes and the extent of their injuries is not immediately clear. Seven people were killed in the collision.

“I’m devastated and shocked to learn of the crash that claimed Gary Knopp’s life,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon in a prepared statement. “Gary was a one-of-a-kind leader and a true Alaskan who worked tirelessly for his district in the Legislature. He will be missed by many.”

A former member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, Knopp joined the Alaska Legislature after the 2016 elections. In his personal life, he worked as a general contractor. He had a quiet first term in office but joined the bipartisan House Majority following the 2018 elections when it became clear that a 21-member Republican majority was likely to fail.

During that time, Knopp stepped into the spotlight of the Legislature as a moderate Republican intent on finding a sensible solution to the state’s budget crisis, resisting supersized dividends while also putting the brakes on additional spending supported by progressive legislators.

For stepping outside the party lines, Knopp faced bitter partisan backlash but those who knew and worked with Knopp remember him as a decent, kind, goofy and hardworking man, always sporting his magnetic reading glasses.

“Rep. Gary Knopp was a profoundly good person who had more integrity than most,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz on Twitter. “Gary could always be counted on to do what was right even when it would cost him dearly. Always had a wink and a smile in even the toughest moments. Words cannot express my grief. Godspeed my friend.”

Former Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, called Knopp a “true Alaskan” in a tweet this morning.

“Donna & I are deeply saddened today to learn of the tragic loss of Rep. Gary Knopp,” he wrote. “To us, he was a true Alaskan — hard working, dedicated, strong, resourceful, independent & devoted to his community & state. We are holding Helen & his family close at heart & in prayer.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff.

Alaska aviation writer Colleen Mondor also reminded on Twitter that it will likely take weeks and months for the details of the crash to be known.

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