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The Latest: Flags ordered lowered to honor Birch

August 8, 2019

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Latest on the death of Alaska state Sen. Chris Birch (all times local):

12:40 p.m.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has ordered state flags to fly at half-staff to honor the late state Sen. Chris Birch.

Dunleavy called Birch “an ardent supporter of responsible resource development” and said Birch’s contributions to the state will be remembered.

Birch’s family says the Anchorage Republican died late Wednesday of a torn or ruptured aorta. Birch was elected to the Senate last fall after earlier serving in the state House.

Dunleavy’s office says the governor has directed state flags to fly at half-staff from Friday through Wednesday in Birch’s honor.

In a separate statement, state GOP party chairman Glenn Clary called Birch a wonderful person and “great Alaska Republican.”

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10:25 a.m.

Alaska state Sen. Chris Birch’s family says he died from a torn or ruptured aorta and not a heart attack.

Birch’s family, in a statement, said he died late Wednesday at an Anchorage hospital. The statement says Birch experienced severe chest pains and as tests were being done to determine the cause of his pain, he went into cardiac arrest and died from an aortic dissection.

Senate Majority Communications Director Daniel McDonald earlier Thursday had incorrectly said that Birch suffered a heart attack.

Lawmakers Thursday offered warm remembrances of Birch, a former state House member who was elected to the Senate last fall.

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8:40 a.m.

The Alaska Senate majority says Republican Sen. Chris Birch has died.

Senate Majority Communications Director Daniel McDonald says Birch suffered a heart attack. He says Birch died Wednesday.

Birch is a former state House member who previously served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough and Anchorage assemblies.

He was elected last fall to the Anchorage Senate seat that had been held by Republican Kevin Meyer, who was elected lieutenant governor. Birch chaired the Senate Resources Committee.

Senate President Cathy Giessel called Birch’s death “a devastating loss to our state.”

Maria Bahr with the Department of Law says the process for replacing Birch will begin with an appointment by the governor to fill the seat until a special election is held.

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