Husband of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska dies after plane crash

Eugene Peltola Jr., was a retired Bureau of Indian Affairs official

By: - September 13, 2023 4:13 pm

Eugene Peltola Jr., center, watches the ranked choice voting tabulation on Nov. 23, 2022, at 49th State Brewing in Anchorage. His daughter Kaeli Peltola and wife U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Anchorage, were with him. Rep. Peltola learned that day that she was reelected. Eugene Peltola Jr. died after a plane crash that occurred on Tuesday night northeast of St. Mary’s, Alaska. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Eugene Peltola Jr., who held senior positions with the federal government and was the husband of U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, has died after an airplane crash in Southwest Alaska. He was 57 years old.

Anton McParland, chief of staff to Rep. Peltola, announced the death on Wednesday morning.

“We are devastated to share that Mary’s husband, Eugene Peltola Jr. — ‘Buzzy’ to all of us who knew and loved him — passed away earlier this morning following a plane accident in Alaska,” McParland wrote in the statement.

McParland said that Rep. Peltola is returning home to be with family. He asked that their privacy be respected.

“He was one of those people that was obnoxiously good at everything,” McParland wrote. “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.”

The crash occurred Tuesday evening, 64 miles northeast of St. Mary’s in the Kusilvak Census Area, the Alaska State Troopers said. The Troopers were notified of the crash at 8:50 p.m. on Tuesday, the Troopers statement said.

Two hunters at the scene but not involved in the crash provided medical care to Peltola, who was the pilot and sole occupant of the Piper Super Cub airplane. He died before an Alaska Air National Guard rescue team arrived early Wednesday morning. The team brought Pelota’s body and the two uninjured hunters to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

Eugene Peltola Jr. is seen in undated photo released by the Bureau of Indian Affairs when he was named BIA’s Alaska director in 2018. (Bureau of Indian Affairs photo)

Eugene Peltola Jr. is seen in undated photo released by the Bureau of Indian Affairs when he was named BIA’s Alaska director in 2018. (Bureau of Indian Affairs photo)

Peltola, who was of Yup’ik and Tlingit descent, had retired last year after having served as the regional director of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for Alaska beginning in 2018. He was a citizen of Orutsararmiut Native Council, the Tribal organization for Bethel.

In a statement at the time of his appointment to the BIA post, Peltola said he felt honored.

“This will provide me the opportunity to contribute to the continued betterment of our people, and, have a voice in the manner which subsistence opportunities are presented for Alaska Natives and other rural residents of the state,” he said.

Peltola worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 34 years, according to the statement released when he joined the BIA. His positions included serving as the federal subsistence management program lead, zone supervisor for refuge law enforcement and refuge manager for the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

He also served as the vice mayor and a city council member in Bethel from 2010 to 2012. And he was a board member of three Alaska Native village corporation entities, including Bethel Native Corporation, the city’s village corporation; and corporations focused on commercial real estate construction and government contracting.

Alaska’s political leaders issued condolences on social media.

U.S. Sen. Lisa 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.”

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said he and his wife Julie were shocked and saddened “beyond belief.”

“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,” Sullivan said.

Eugene Peltola Jr., center, is between former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his wife U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola at Rep. Peltola’s swearing-in, on Sept. 13, 2022, in Washington, D.C. They are surrounded by family members of the Pelotas. (Andrew Kitchenman/Alaska Beacon)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said: “Rose and I are shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of Gene Peltola. We will be praying for Mary, their children, and all of the Peltola family. Gene’s dedication to Alaska ran deep, and he will be dearly missed.”

McParland said Rep. Peltola’s staff will continue to meet with constituents and carry on the work of the office while the representative and her family grieve.

The National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash, the Troopers said.


Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: [email protected]. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Andrew Kitchenman
Andrew Kitchenman

Andrew Kitchenman has covered state government in Alaska since 2016, serving as the Capitol reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO before joining the Alaska Beacon. Before this, he covered state and local governments on the East Coast – primarily in New Jersey – for more than 15 years. He enjoys reading, watching movies and walking around Anchorage.