Eugene "Buzzy" Peltola Jr., left, attends Rep. Mary Peltola's swearing in ceremony in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy Office of Rep. Mary Peltola

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola’s husband, Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., a certified commercial pilot, has died in the crash of his plane near St. Mary’s. He was returning from dropping off a hunter in the mountainous terrain in Western Alaska.  

The Federal Aviation Administration said that the single-engine Piper PA-18 Super Cub crashed on takeoff at around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. He was the only person on board at the time of the crash. 

A statement issued by the congress member’s office Wednesday morning said that she was returning home to be with family and asked that their privacy be respected. 

Weather conditions at the time were not immediately available. Alaska is known for having a disproportionate number of fatal small plane crashes, in part because of the mountainous terrain pilots must fly through to reach remote locations. 

The statement from Anton McParland, chief of staff to the congresswoman, described Eugene Peltola as “one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything.”  

“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. 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,” McParland said. 


The congress member’s office said that her team would continue to meet with constituents and carry on the work of the office while the family grieves. 

Born in Bethel, and an Orutsararmiut Native Council tribal member, Eugene Peltola served as regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 2018 to 2022.   

Prior to that he had worked for 34 years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as assistant regional director at the Office of Subsistence Management, where he implemented subsistence management on all federal lands in Alaska as the Federal Subsistence Management Program lead. He had also served on the board of the Bethel Native Corp., and its subsidiaries Bethel Solutions, LLC and Bethel Services. From 2010 to 2012, Peltola also served as vice-mayor and a council member for the City of Bethel.  

Condolences pouring in for the Peltola family included those of Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp., who said “Eugene was a devoted husband and father, a treasured friend, and a passionate servant both in his years of federal service and local leadership. Our prayers and sympathies are with Congresswoman Peltola and their family during this heartbreaking time.” 

The ANCSA Regional Association, which represents presidents and CEOs of the 12 land-based regional corporations established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, described “Buzzy” as “a beloved husband, father, and friend to so many, making an impact on everyone he met. He lived a life of service, dedicated to Alaska Native people and his home of Bethel through his decades-long career in federal service and his years of local government and Alaska Native corporation leadership.” 

On Wednesday, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, posted social media messages of support of Rep. Peltola and her family.  

“I am shocked, saddened and truly beyond words to express my grief at the loss of Gene Peltola Jr.,” Murkowski said. “Anyone who met Buzzy felt his warmth, generosity and charm. It was easy to see why so many Alaskans called him a friend, and how he was so loved by his family.” 

Sullivan shared: “This is an unimaginably difficult time for Mary, the entire Peltola family, and so many friends across the state. Today, we mourn the tragic loss of Gene, and offer Mary and her family our heartfelt prayers for strength and consolation in this time of unspeakable loss and grief, and know that Alaskans across our great state are doing the same.”