Eugene Peltola Jr., the late husband of Rep. Mary Peltola of Alaska, was ferrying moose meat and antlers when his plane crashed earlier this month, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Peltola Jr. had flown a group of hunters from Holy Cross, Alaska, to St. Mary’s, Alaska, two days before the fatal crash, according to the report. He then returned to help haul moose meat back after a successful hunt, the report said. The fatal Sept. 12 crash was Peltola Jr.’s second meat run of the day, with the first going smoothly and without incident, according to the report.

One of the hunters told the NTSB that the second load of meat was about 50 to 70 pounds heavier than the first. The total load for the second trip was about 520 pounds, according to the NTSB. 

“The meat was strapped into the rear passenger seat area with both the seatbelt and rope and was loaded into the airplane’s belly pod, which did not have tie-down provisions,” the report said. 

The NTSB found about 150 pounds of the meat in the forward section of the belly pod after the crash, the report said. One of the hunters said Peltola Jr. told him he would be running on reserve fuel by the time he arrived back at Holy Cross.

In addition, Peltola Jr. also tied the moose’s antlers to one of the wing struts, which could be seen in video taken by one of the hunters.

Eugene Peltola Jr.’s plane with antlers tied to the right wing strut, as seen in a video taken by a hunter.

National Transportation Safety Board

It took longer for the Piper PA-18-150 to get in the air on this second run and the plane appeared more “labored,” the hunters told the NTSB. According to the hunters, once the plane got in the air it turned sharply to the right and flew behind a nearby ridgeline. When it didn’t reappear, the hunters climbed to the top of the ridge and saw the plane had crashed.

The NTSB noted that the plane’s engine could be heard running and there were no vapor or smoke trails visible in the hunter’s video of the takeoff. There was no evidence of a “catastrophic engine failure,” the NTSB said.

Peltola Jr. was unconscious when the hunters got to the wreckage and he died within two hours, the NTSB said. 

The crashed plane Eugene Peltola Jr. had been flying.

National Transportation Safety Board

Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, defeated former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in a 2022 special election for Alaska’s only House seat, which had been left vacant after Rep. Don Young died in office at the age of 88.

“To everyone who has reached out, from Alaska to D.C. and everywhere in between, thank you,” Peltola said on social media when her office announced her husband’s death. “You have made a dark time just a little lighter.”