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

 

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

Global Village Nanaimo’s pop-up store in open from now until June 10 in Nanaimo North Town Centre. (Photo submitted)
Global Village Nanaimo non-profit shop selling wares during Fair Trade Month

Pop-up store set up in Nanaimo North Town Centre during May

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Island’s COVID-19 case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Emergency service vehicles respond to motor vehicle incident at Highway 1 and 1st Avenue in Ladysmith. (Submitted photo)
Truck hits person using mobility scooter at northern entrance of Ladysmith

Northbound traffic is down to one lane and southbound traffic is being diverted to Oyster Bay Drive

RCMP outside the Nanaimo Ice Centre investigating a report of a suspicious person. The incident resulted in hold-and-secures at two nearby schools, but those emergency procedures have now been lifted. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Police response a result of man walking around Nanaimo marsh with airsoft rifle

Two schools had gone into hold-and-secure procedures Thursday morning, May 13

Nanoose Bay volunteer firefighters work to extinguish a bush blaze on Ida Lane on Monday, May 10. (Mandy Moraes/Black Press)
Flames from backyard burn in Nanoose Bay shoot higher than owner’s home

Fire chief reported blaze took more than an hour and a half to suppress

RCMP outside the Nanaimo Ice Centre investigating a report of a suspicious person. The incident resulted in hold-and-secures at two nearby schools, but those emergency procedures have now been lifted. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: Police response a result of man walking around Nanaimo marsh with airsoft rifle

Two schools had gone into hold-and-secure procedures Thursday morning, May 13

Beef to the ‘senior’ 30-plus taggers. You are too old to be doing these juvenile antics.
Beefs & Bouquets, May 12

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

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

Nanaimo city council has approved funding for an upgraded bridge crossing Millstone River in Bowen Park. (News Bulletin photo)
New bridge in Bowen Park part of City of Nanaimo’s active transportation plans

Replacement of Lenhart Bridge next year expected to cost $237,000

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read