North Dakota Republican state Senator Doug Larsen, his wife, and their two young children died in a plane crash in Utah on Sunday night, officials said.
“I’m not sure where the bereavement starts with such a tragedy, but I think it starts with prayers for the grandparents, surviving stepchild of Senator Larsen, and extended family of Doug and Amy,” North Dakota Republican Senate Majority Leader David Hogue wrote in the email to senate colleagues obtained by the Associated Press on Monday. “Hold your family close today.”
Rest in Peace ND State Senator Doug Larsen and family, him and his family died in a plane crash on Sunday north of Moab Utah pic.twitter.com/WhQCECbOPp
— Harrison Krank (@HarrisonKrank) October 2, 2023
Hogue said the crash occurred after the Larsen family stopped to refuel the aircraft in Utah after visiting family in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Grand County Sheriff’s Department said on Facebook that the plane crashed shortly after taking off from Canyonlands Airfield about 15 miles north of Moab — a tourist city of approximately 5,300 people known for its gateway to massive red rock formations in Arches National Park — and confirmed that all four people on board the plane did not survive.
Authorities reportedly said they dispatched emergency responders after receiving a call from a witness who witnessed “a plane going into the ground shortly after taking off from the Canyonlands Airfield north of Moab,” according to The Daily Mail.
National Transportation Safety Board officials reported that the crash of the single-engine Piper was being investigated.
A spokesperson from the safety board said that an investigator was on the scene Monday “to begin to document the scene, examine the aircraft, request any air traffic communications, radar data, weather reports and try to contact any witnesses” and would “request maintenance records of the aircraft, and medical records and flight history of the pilot.”
It’s unclear who was piloting the aircraft at the time of the crash. The Associated Press reported a Facebook post from Larsen in December 2020 showed a picture of a small, orange plane that noted his wife, Amy, had “her first flight as a pilot.”
Larsen became a North Dakota state senator in 2020, where he represented approximately 14,000 people in District 34 and chaired the state’s Senate’s Industry and Business Committee, according to reports.
“As a legislator, he was a tenacious advocate for individual rights and the freedoms he defended through his military service. We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family and friends,” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, also a Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement shared with Forbes.
Larsen served 29 years in the North Dakota Army National Guard, where he mobilized twice, to Iraq from 2009-10 and to Washington, D.C., from 2013-14, and received several honors, including Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Service Star, and Army Aviator Badge, according to Burgum’s office.
North Dakota National Guard Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann reportedly said, “I cannot think of a more tragic loss for one family, and the North Dakota National Guard sends our condolences to all of [the Larsens’] friends and family.
“Doug was a true patriot who dedicated his life, both in and out of uniform, to serving others. I had the distinct pleasure to call him a Brother in Arms,” Dohrmann said.
Larsen and his wife also co-owned a local homebuilding company called Apex Builders and were majority owners of a local hotel.
A Facebook post from his 2020 campaign reportedly displayed him and Amy at a construction site with the caption, “My wife Amy & I are a team. Together, we run a business, and together, we build things.”
“The most important thing anyone can build is a strong family,” the post reads.