Alex Bahlsen, the pilot who died in the plane crash on Gabriola Island earlier this week, was the heir to a global cookie empire, according the German newspaper Bild.

Bild says that Bahlsen, 61, was the great-grandson of Herman Bahlsen who founded the family-run biscuit company back in 1889 in Hanover, Germany. The biscuit business is privately owned and is best known for its shortbread cookie called the Leibniz-Butterkeks.

According to the company’s website, it is the “largest family-run biscuit producer in the world,” delivering goods to nearly 55 different countries including Canada.

Bild reported that Alex Bahlsen had emigrated to Canada more than 30 years ago, to work as a pilot and run a flight school. The German pilot is also said to have owned homes in Alberta, Mexico and Mill Bay.

Bahlsen was piloting his twin-engine Piper Aerostar on Tuesday evening when it crashed in a wooded section on the northeast corner of Gabriola Island, killing him along with the two other passengers on board. Investigators are currently gathering evidence as they continue looking for what may have caused the crash.

Raz Rydstrom, a friend, is convinced something happened beyond Bahlsen’s control. “The only thing I can imagine is there must have been some icing and the de-icing system which are these balloons affixed to the propellers that if they don’t inflate properly then they can’t push the ice off,” Rydstrom said.

The horrific crash, witnessed by residents of the island, say it is a saddening to see something like this.

“I heard a roar of an engine, which didn’t sound like a car engine. It was really loud and then I heard a crash, and a little bit after that I heard an explosion,” said resident Bette Lou Hagen, who lives one property over from where the crash occurred, “It’s just really tragic. It has never happened before.”

Bahlsen started his last flight in at Bishop’s airport in California.  He then headed to Vancouver Island. His wife was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico while he flew home to Mill Bay, according to friend Tim Dwyer.

Files from Mary Griffin