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)

Just Posted

Development permit approved for new auto dealership in Nanaimo

City council votes in favour of Mitsubishi building design proposal, including variances

Nanaimo United play in a pandemic, win Jackson Cup championship

Div. 1 men defeat Lakehill 2-1 to cap off soccer season after a six-month shutdown

Ride-hailing service nearly ready to start up in Nanaimo

Lucky to Go planning to launch Oct. 1

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley seeks reelection

Routley has served as MLA for the area since 2005.

VIJHL season could start Oct. 1, says league president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

City reviewing plans for huge Sandstone project in south Nanaimo

Seacliff Properties says it’s been told to be ready for a public hearing this fall

Most Read