BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A state senator from North Dakota, his wife and their two young children died when the small plane they were traveling in crashed soon after a refueling stop in Utah, a Senate leader said Monday.
Doug Larsen’s death was confirmed Monday in an email that Republican Senate Majority Leader David Hogue sent to his fellow senators and was obtained by The Associated Press.
The plane crashed Sunday evening shortly after taking off from Canyonlands Airfield about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of the desert recreation town of Moab, according to a Grand County Sheriff’s Department statement posted on Facebook. The sheriff’s office said the senator was the pilot and all four people on board the plane were killed.
“Senator Doug Larsen, his wife Amy, and their two young children died in a plane crash last evening in Utah,” Hogue wrote in his email. “They were visiting family in Scottsdale and returning home. They stopped to refuel in Utah.”
“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,” Hogue wrote. “Hold your family close today.”
A bouquet of roses was draped over Larsen’s desk in the Senate chamber, just above the nameplate that reads: “D. Larsen – District 34.”
The crash of the single-engine Piper plane was being investigated, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a post on X, the social media website formerly called Twitter.
An NTSB spokesman said a board investigator was expected to arrive at 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. Also, the investigator will request maintenance records of the aircraft, and medical records and flight history of the pilot.”
Officials didn’t release the plane’s origin or final destination. After landing at the airport, the travelers took a car into Moab before taking off in the refueled plane, NTSB spokesman Fabian Salazar said at a news conference at the airport.
The agency will have a preliminary report on the crash within a couple weeks, followed by a final report in a year to year and a half, Salazar said.
Larsen was a Republican first elected to the North Dakota Senate in 2020. His district comprises Mandan, the city neighboring Bismarck to the west across the Missouri River. Larsen chaired a Senate panel that handled industry and business legislation. He and his wife, Amy, were business owners.
Larsen served 29 years in the North Dakota Army National Guard. He mobilized twice, to Iraq from 2009-10 and to Washington, D.C., from 2013-14, according to Gov. Doug Burgum’s office. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Bronze Service Star and Army Aviator Badge among other honors.
Burgum in a statement said Larsen “was a father, husband, coach, entrepreneur, businessman, state senator and lieutenant colonel in the North Dakota National Guard who committed himself fully to each of those roles with an unwavering sense of honor and duty. As a legislator, he was a tenacious advocate for individual rights and the freedoms he defended through his military service.”
Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, who is adjutant general of the North Dakota National Guard, 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.”
Republican state Sen. Scott Meyer, who sat behind Larsen in the Senate, remembered him for his unique and dry sense of humor, candor on issues and passion for flying. He recalled a Saturday afternoon in the Senate chamber when Larsen talked with fellow senators for roughly an hour about flying planes and working on his private pilot’s license.
“He was passionate about flying. He really was,” Meyer said.
District Republicans will appoint a successor to fill out the remainder of Larsen’s term, through November 2024. His Senate seat is on the ballot next year. Republicans control North Dakota’s Legislature with supermajorities in the House and Senate.
Moab is a tourism-centered community of about 5,300 people near Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Gruver reported from Cheyenne, Wyoming.