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Families of Soldotna plane crash victims reach settlement

Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Soldotna, speaks during a House Minority press availability in April 2017.
Skip Gray
360 North
Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Soldotna, speaks during a House Minority press availability in April 2017.

The families of the victims of a 2020 midair crash over Soldotna have reached a settlement, according to one of the family’s lawyers — putting to rest a set of several lawsuits over the accident that killed then-Republican Rep. Gary Knopp and six others.

The settlement comes more than two years after Knopp’s private plane collided with a charter plane in July 2020, killing the four passengers, guide and pilot aboard.

Michael Schneider, a lawyer for one of the families, said the terms of the settlement, reached weeks ago, are confidential.

“The parties were able to come to an agreement. And it wasn’t easy, it took a long time,” he said. “But it allows everyone involved to end the matter, get some closure and get on downstream with their lives.”

Last year, representatives for four of the victims, Kristen Wright, Caleb Hulsey, MacKay Hulsey and Heather Hulsey, all of South Carolina, filed two separate federal lawsuits against Knopp’s estate and his widow, Helen Knopp. Both suits also targeted the estate of Gregory Bell, the charter pilot who also died in the crash, and the two companies that owned and operated the charter plane.

The complaints alleged Knopp was negligent since he was flying without a medical certification. Knopp was denied a certification in 2012 due to vision problems.

Schneider, the attorney, said the settlement consolidates those suits and that there’s no outstanding litigation. Blaine Gilman, an attorney for Knopp, declined to comment.

The estate of the guide who died in the crash, David Rogers, also sued the Knopp estate. And Knopp’s widow filed a counter-complaint against the charter company, High Adventure Air Charters, of Soldotna. The owners of High Adventure Air Charters, Marc and Sandy Bell, are now trying to sell their business, according to their website.

A separate lawsuit, between the guide and the charter plane operators, was already settled out of court.

The National Transportation Safety Board still hasn’t published its final analysis of the crash.

An 11-page report from the board, released in August, outlines some of the factors that could have contributed,though it stops short of pointing to a probable cause.

Board Regional Chief Clint Johnson said a determination of cause will be included in the final report on the crash, which he expects will be out “soon.”

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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