State Sen. Doug Larsen, his wife Amy and their two young children died Sunday in a plane crash near Moab, Utah. The plane crashed shortly after taking off from Canyonlands Airfield near the desert recreation town, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office. The senator was the pilot, according to the sheriff's office.
The National Transportation and Safety Board is investigating the crash of the single-engine Piper plane, with a preliminary report expected in two weeks.
The weather at the time was mild, with scattered light showers, wide visibility and gentle winds in the area around the airport, according to the National Weather Service.
State Rep. Paul Thomas and state Sen. Cole Conley offered tributes Tuesday to Larsen before a routine meeting of an interim study committee of the Legislature. The room observed a moment of silence for the Larsen family.
Thomas and Conley both entered the Legislature in 2020 with Larsen, a fellow Republican, and recounted their early days at the Capitol with him.
Thomas commended Larsen's service to others, including his family and friends and his North Dakota National Guard career.
“Sen. Larsen was what we all here aspired to be as servants to our members and our district as well as our friends and family,” Thomas told about 20 lawmakers gathered for the meeting.
Conley said Larsen loved to host events, inviting colleagues to his home in Mandan, and cooking tacos, chili and other meals for Senate caucus meetings. Larsen also once offered to find Conley a car when his broke down.
His last visit with Larsen was when Conley booked a room at the Larsens' Bismarck hotel in advance of Tuesday's meeting. Conley called Larsen for the reservation, who personally booked it.
Republican Senate Majority Leader David Hogue in an email to fellow senators said the Larsens were returning home from visiting family in Scottsdale, Arizona, and had stopped to refuel in Utah.
Larsen represented a district encompassing Mandan, which neighbors Bismarck to the west across the Missouri River. He chaired a Senate panel that handled industry- and business-related legislation.
Larsen was a lieutenant colonel and 29-year member of the North Dakota National Guard. He and his wife, Amy, owned businesses that included the hotel and a home-building company.
District Republicans will appoint a successor to fill out the remainder of Larsen's term, through November 2024. Party Chair Sandi Sanford said an appointment will probably come after funeral services, “out of respect.” Larsen's Senate seat is on the ballot next year.
Gov. Doug Burgum and legislative leaders are preparing to convene the Legislature in Bismarck after the state Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a major budget bill of the state government, calling it unconstitutional in containing multiple, unrelated items in violation of the state Constitution's single-subject requirement.