An investigator takes photos near the scene of a small plane crash on Gabriola Island, B.C., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

An investigator takes photos near the scene of a small plane crash on Gabriola Island, B.C., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

UPDATED: Transportation Safety Board finishes work at plane crash site, investigation continues

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Three people were onboard the small plane that crashed on Gabriola Island earlier this week, Transport Canada has confirmed.

According to a preliminary information bulletin posted on the department’s website, three people were killed when a Piper PA-60-602P Aerostar plunged into a wooded glen on Gabriola in the evening hours of Dec. 10.

The update notes that the plane was nearing the Nanaimo Airport when it reported an “equipment issue” and then deviated from its approach and ultimately dropped off radar. The twin-engine plane was arriving from Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop, Calif.

The Transportation Safety Board released an update Friday evening notifying that it has completed its work at the crash site.

“Investigators spent three days documenting the aircraft, interviewing witnesses, and collecting data. The wreckage has been removed from the site and will be securely stored for further analysis over the coming days and weeks,” the update noted.

The TSB will now work to classify the accident, which will determine the scope of the investigation to follow.

B.C. Coroners Service confirmed three people died in the plane crash in a news release issued Friday afternoon. Although the identities of the victims were not disclosed, the news release notes that a man in his 60s from Mill Bay, B.C., “and two other decedents, one male and one female” were onboard the aircraft.

The Mill Bay man was Alex Bahlsen, 62, a member of the Nanaimo Flying Club.

In a statement released to media, the Bahlsen family said it is “absolutely devastated” about the news and described Alex as a loving husband, father, and grandfather who was “just a short flight away.”

“We knew this day could come; however, Alex always had a way of making us feel like it never would,” the family said.

They said flying was Alex’s true passion.

Alex was taken from us while he was doing something he loved,” they said. “He never hesitated to share the joy of flying with others and the beauty from the air that captivated him. Alex believed that ‘it’s always sunny above the clouds.’”

A celebration of life for Bahlsen will be held at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada located in Nanton, Alta. on Dec. 20. A memorial fund will be established in his name “so others can share in his passion of flying” according to the family.

RELATED: Nanaimo Flying Club to honour pilot killed in Gabriola plane crash

RELATED: Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

READ MORE: No survivors in Gabriola Island plane crash

Benjamin Werbski, vice-president of the Nanaimo Flying Club, told the News Bulletin that based on the information provided by the TSB, he’s no longer surprised that the plane flew near Gabriola Island.

“You’re flying over Gabriola to set up for an ILS or instrument landing system approach, which is for instrument flight rules. That’s what Air Canada does and what WestJet does…” he said. “As long as you’re following your instruments and you got your heading right you should be landing, but if he was wandering around that way then he might not have been able to find direction.”

According to Werbski, Bahlsen had complained about the autopilot in his plane wasn’t working properly. He also said the foggy and cloudy conditions on the night of the crash wouldn’t have been helpful.

“When you come through fog or low cloud like that it can actually get really distracting. We tend to turn off our beacons when we are flying through clouds because that strobe light ends up bouncing off the clouds and it will do some weird things to your mind.”

Werbski said he can only speculate what the cause of the accident was, but said there is likely more than one single event or factor that contributed to the crash.

“There are a lot of minor things that can accumulate into something catastrophic,” Werbski said. “This had catastrophic failure coupled with the inability to fly through the bad weather.”



nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Alex Bahlsen, who died in a plane crash on Gabriola Island on Tuesday. (Photo submitted)

Alex Bahlsen, who died in a plane crash on Gabriola Island on Tuesday. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson takes her oaths of office virtually on Thursday. (B.C. Government YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson named B.C.’s mental health and addictions minister

Malcolmson succeeds Judy Darcy, who did not seek re-election

Police in Nanaimo are looking for a suspect who wore a black-and-white striped hoodie and rode a yellow mountain bike when he allegedly stole three children’s backpacks from a daycare facility. (Photo submitted)
VIDEO: Thief steals children’s backpacks from Nanaimo daycare

Suspect rode a yellow mountain bike and made off with backpacks hanging on fence

The 190-step Seabold stairs, damaged by a storm in 2018, have been rebuilt from Vancouver Island yellow cedar and are once again open to the public. (City of Nanaimo photo)
Seabold Park stairs in north Nanaimo open again

Stairs, damaged by storm in 2018, have been rebuilt and reopened to public

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 887 new cases

Another 13 deaths, ties the highest three days ago

After twice have their wedding plans altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, Suzanne Schmidt and Andrew Sturgess got married in Bakerview Park last weekend, with the only guests being their two daughters, Zoey (foreground) and Tessa. (Darren Ripka photo)
From New Zealand to Bakerview Park, B.C. couple weds in ‘backyard’

Twice scaled-down wedding ‘proof that good things still happen during bad times’

Police in Nanaimo never know what they’ll encounter when called upon to check on the well-being of people. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo RCMP find ‘heart-breaking’ circumstances during wellness checks

Police offer sampling of outcomes from well-being checks over recent weeks

Ladysmith’s 1st Avenue will be lit up until January 15. (Cole Schisler photo)
Light Up parade a no-go, but Ladysmith’s streets are still all aglow

Although the tradition Light Up this year was cancelled, folks can still enjoy the holiday lights

Crews fight a fire in a home on Wakesiah Avenue on Thursday afternoon. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Crews putting out fire in a house on Wakesiah Avenue in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Fire Rescue was called out at noon Thursday

Beef to Halloween, a celebration of death, weapons, blood and murder. Halloween is a mockery of death and our beloved deceased. Why do we celebrate it?
Beefs & Bouquets, Nov. 25

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

B.C. Premier John Horgan, a Star Trek fan, can’t resist a Vulcan salute as he takes the oath of office for a second term in Victoria, Nov. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
Horgan names 20-member cabinet with same pandemic team

New faces in education, finance, economic recovery

The Klahoose First Nation village on Cortes Island is under lockdown until further notice due to a positive COVID-19 test. Photo courtesy Kevin Peacey.
Cortes Island First Nation community locked down due to positive COVID-19 test

Klahoose First Nation has had one positive test, one other potential case

Gracie couldn’t stop nursing from her previous owner’s goats which was problematic given the goats were trying to be dried out to breed. Gracie now lives at A Home for Hooves. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Cowichan animal sanctuary gets international accreditation

A Home for Hooves farm sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

Most Read