Indianz.Com > News > Spouse of Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) passes away in plane accident
Eugene Peltola and Mary Peltola
Eugene Peltola, left, joins Mary Peltola upon her swearing-in to the U.S. House of Representatives on September 13, 2022. Courtesy photo
Spouse of Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) passes away in plane accident
Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The spouse of Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), the first Alaska Native to serve in the U.S. Congress, died in a plane accident in the couple’s home state of Alaska.

Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., who was 57 years old, died on Tuesday evening, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety. The incident occurred about 64 miles northeast of Saint Mary’s, an area near near the Yukon River in the western part of the state.

“The pilot was confirmed to be Peltola who was flying a Piper Supercub that crashed just after departure,” the department said in a dispatch dated Wednesday morning. “Peltola unfortunately died before the rescue team arrived.”

With the U.S. House of Representatives having returned to work this week following a month-long recess, Peltola was in Washington, D.C., when the accident occurred. Her chief of staff, Anton McParland, said she would be returning to Alaska to be with family.

“He was one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything,” McParland said of Buzzy in a statement on Wednesday. “He had a delightful sense of humor that lightened the darkest moments. He was definitely the cook in the family.”

“And family was most important to him,” McParland added. “He was completely devoted to his parents, kids, siblings, extended family, and friends — and he simply adored Mary.”

“We are heartbroken for the family’s loss,” the statement read.

The National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency, will open an investigation into the incident. Such investigations are routine.

Peltola won election to Congress in a special election last September. She is not only the first Alaska Native to serve in the legislative branch of the U.S. government, she is the first Democrat to represent Alaska’s sole Congressional district in more than a decade.

“We are deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Congresswoman Peltola’s beloved husband,” Crystalyne Curley, who is the first woman to serve as Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Navajo Nation Council offers our condolences and prayers to her and the family,” Curley continued. “We pray that they can find comfort in knowing that their loved one is now with our Creator.”

“Buzzy” Peltola was Yup’ik and Tlingit. He was a citizen of the Orutsararmiut Native Council, one of the federally-recognized tribes in Alaska. He also worked for a number of Alaska Native corporate entities and as vice mayor and council member for the city of Bethel.

From 2018 through 2022, Peltola served as regional director in Alaska for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He had previously worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The two federal agencies are part of the Department of the Interior.

On Monday, Rep. Peltola met with President Joe Biden, who stopped in Alaska following an overseas trip to Vietnam. She greeted him upon his arrival at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and traveled with him to an event held in commemoration of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“The President spoke to Congresswoman Mary Peltola and expressed his deepest condolences on the loss of her husband,” the White House said on Wednesday evening. Following the event, Peltola flew to D.C. with Biden on Air Force One, her office said.

The Peltolas have six children.