SMOOTH SAILING – A troller cruises across Sitka Sound during a hazy sunset Friday evening. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Midair Plane Collision Kills 7 Near Soldotna

Anchorage Daily News

Investigators are trying to figure out what exactly occurred when two planes collided in midair near the Soldotna airport on the Kenai Peninsula on Friday, killing seven people including a Kenai lawmaker.

The single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver involved in the crash carried six people: 57-year-old pilot Gregory Bell, of Soldotna; 40-year-old guide David Rogers, of Kansas; and South Carolina residents Caleb Hulsey, 26, Heather Hulsey, 25, Mackay Hulsey, 24, and Kirstin Wright, 23, Alaska State Troopers said.

The only person in the other plane, a single-engine Piper PA-12, was 63-year-old state Rep. Gary Knopp of Kenai, troopers and federal aviation officials said.

Six people were confirmed dead at the scene while one person died on the way to Central Peninsula Hospital in an ambulance.

The federal National Transportation Safety Board was recovering the two planes, NTSB Alaska chief Clint Johnson said Saturday. The agency hoped to be finished with recovery efforts by the end of Saturday, and the goal is to bring the two planes to a secured location in the Wasilla area, Johnson said.

In the next two weeks the agency hopes to “be able to piece those airplanes back together” to understand how the two planes came together, Johnson said.

He also said it’s “way too early to discuss cause at this point. We are definitely just in the preliminary stages and information gathering stages.”

Bell, the Beaver’s pilot, was part of a family that owns and operates High Adventure Air Charter, based on Longmere Lake in Soldotna. The business offers fishing, hunting, bear viewing and glacier tour trips as well as custom charters.

The charter plane, which was equipped with floats, took off from Longmere Lake and was headed to the west side of Cook Inlet, Johnson said.

The Piper PA-12 was equipped with wheels and took off from the Soldotna Airport, he said, but investigators do not yet know where it was headed.

How exactly the two planes collided is what investigators are trying to learn.

Knopp, a longtime contractor who was also a flight instructor and pilot, was elected to the Legislature in 2016. Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday ordered U.S. and Alaska state flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Knopp for three days, ending at sunset Monday, with flags returning to full-staff at sunrise tonight.

A South Carolina television station reported that Caleb and Mackay Hulsey were brothers. Heather Hulsey was married to Caleb, the station reported. Mackay and Kirstin Wright were planning to marry and had been dating since 2011.


Daily News reporters Zaz Hollander, James Brooks and Paula Dobbyn contributed.



Alaska Logs 159 New Virus Cases On Sunday

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska health officials reported that there were 159 new COVID-19 cases in the state Sunday, including 111 within the Municipality of Anchorage.

The new cases included 145 Alaska residents and 14 non-residents, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

Data from the state Department of Health and Social Services showed there was one new hospitalization reported, while there were no additional deaths on Sunday.

The health department reported that 27 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Sunday and 12 people were hospitalized with test results for the virus pending.

Alaska has had 3,280 confirmed cases of the coronavirus including 134 people who have required hospitalization since the pandemic began, officials said.

There have been 24 deaths of Alaska residents connected to COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Cases have sharply climbed in the last few months since Alaska began reopening its businesses and other public facilities.

Officials have said the growing number of cases could far exceed the available hospital beds. Slightly less than half of the state’s 163 intensive care unit beds were available on Sunday and about 60% of the state’s normal hospital beds were occupied.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Anchorage Shuts Down Indoor Bars, Eateries

ANCHORAGE (AP) — A new emergency order in Anchorage will stop indoor service at restaurants and breweries, restrict gathering sizes and require people to work from home if possible to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz announced Friday that the order would go into effect Monday and will last until Aug. 30.

“By waiting for four weeks, we should see be able to judge whether these measures are helping to reduce transmission or whether we need to do additional steps,” Anchorage Health Department Medical Officer Bruce Chandler said.

The newest regulation requires bars and nightclubs be closed except to provide takeout or delivery service. The order also limits indoor gatherings to 15 people and outdoor gatherings with food and drinks to 25 people. Outdoor gatherings without food and drinks are limited to 50 people.

Berkowitz also extended the city mask mandate requiring face coverings for all indoor and outdoor gatherings.

In the last week, health officials reported an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases. Anchorage had 494 confirmed COVID-19 cases this week, up from 187 cases the week before. 

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Anchorage opened five new testing site locations around the city, including at two churches and a library. Municipal manager Bill Falsey said all of the new locations are free and do not require a doctor referral. 

“We’re encouraging anyone with even mild symptoms, or who thinks they may have been exposed to go to those sites to get COVID tested. We’ll also test people who are asymptomatic if they feel like they have been exposed,” he said.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but can also be detected in people without symptoms. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.




Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-4-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 59

Total statewide – 3,394

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 17 (12 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 136.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

Login Form


August 2000

The School Board Tuesday discussed district policy on head lice. At present, students found to have head lice are kept from school until all lice are removed. The revised policy allows students who have nits to remain in school, with information on treatment and a nit-removing comb to be sent home with them.

August 1970

Legal notice: Sealed bids will be received ... for furnishing and installation of siding on the City
Garage, located on Halibut Point Road. ... City of Sitka, Alaska Fermin Gutierrez, Director of Public Works.