Coroner confirms two men, one woman died in Gabriola Island plane crash

Coroner confirms two men, one woman died in Gabriola Island plane crash
Debris is seen on the ground on Gabriola Island after a plane crash on Dec. 10, 2019.

The BC Coroners Service said Friday that two men and one woman died in the plane crash on Gabriola Island on Tuesday.

According to Andy Watson, communications manager for the BC Coroners Service, investigators have positively identified one of the three people who died in the crash and continue to work to confirm the identity of the other two people who were on the plane.

Based on preliminary information collected at the scene, the BC Coroners Service said the deceased are; a man in his 60s from Mill Bay and two other people, one man and one woman. Confirming the identification of the other two people who died is subject to post-mortem testing results and other investigative work, the BC Coroners Service said.

There were no survivors in the crash, which happened around 6 p.m. Tuesday on the northwest part of the island.

“With a crash like the one that we had at Gabriola where there is a significant debris field, it complicates things and it makes the investigation more complex, so that’s why this is going to take time,” Watson said. The BC Coroners Service’s special investigations unit has been on Gabriola Island since Wednesday.

The Transportation Safety Board said Friday a Piper PA-60-602P, a piston twin-engine plane was extensively broken up due to high impact forces during the crash.  The TSB was unable to determine the aircraft registration precisely and said they were working to verify the registration.

The TSB confirmed the flight was a private/pleasure flight and it had departed from the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport (KBIH) in Bishop, California.

The plane was headed to Nanaimo. The TSB said the  plane was in the process of conducting an instrument approach to Runway 16 of Nanaimo Airport when the collision with terrain occurred.

TSB investigators spent three days on Gabriola Island. The wreckage has now been removed from the site and will be stored for analysis.

According to a report from the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrences (CADORS), published by Transport Canada, a Piper Aerostar was approaching Nanaimo using an instrument landing system when an “an equipment issue” was reported. The plane deviated from the approach prior to dropping off of the radar. Nav Canada is the company that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation service. CADORS reports are preliminary and are subject to change.

READ MORE: Nav Canada report says three died in Gabriola Island plane crash after ‘equipment issue’

Friends have identified the pilot as 61-year-old Alex Bahlsen, who lived with his wife in Mill Bay, B.C.

READ MORE: Deceased pilot in Gabriola Island plane crash was heir to cookie fortune

The BC Coroners Service said it is continuing to investigate the circumstances that led to the group’s deaths. Watson said due to the privacy of the deceased, the BC Coroners Service will not be releasing or confirming identity.

The TSB said among other activities in the coming days and weeks, investigators will:

Among other activities in the coming days and weeks, the team will:

  • examine data from electronic devices that may be found in the aircraft to help determine the sequence of events prior to the accident;
  • gather and analyze weather information to understand to what extent weather was a factor;
  • examine aircraft maintenance records, pilot training, qualifications and proficiency records;
  • conduct follow-up interviews;
  • review operational policies, procedures and regulatory requirements;
  • examine previous occurrences involving this type of aircraft and subsequent safety action taken in Canada, the United States and other jurisdictions.

“Investigations are complex and we take the time needed to complete a thorough investigation. However, should the investigation team uncover safety deficiencies that present an immediate risk, the Board will communicate them without delay,” the TSB said Friday.

“Further, it is important not to speculate, or draw conclusions as to causes at this time. There are often many factors that can contribute to an accident.”



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