Pilot killed in Gabriola Island plane crash identified as flying instructor

Pilot killed in Gabriola Island plane crash identified as flying instructor
Debris is seen on the ground on Gabriola Island after a plane crash on Dec. 10, 2019.

The pilot killed in a plane crash Tuesday night on Gabriola Island was an experienced flying instructor with his own flight school, according to CBC.

At around 6 p.m., a twin-engine propeller aircraft crashed into the island’s northwest corner.

CBC is reporting Alex Bahlsen was flying the aircraft, which was his own Pieper Aerostar. Several friends confirmed his death to CBC on Wednesday.

A Facebook photo of Alex Bahlsen

Alex Bahlsen’s friends say he was the pilot flying the small plane that crashed on Gabriola Island Dec. 10. (Facebook)

The Bomber Command Museum of Canada, located in Nanton, Alberta, posted that they were remembering Bahlsen today.

Remembering Alex Bahlsen today … in July, every other year, the Bomber Command Museum hosts the Joe English Memorial…

Posted by Bomber Command Museum of Canada on Wednesday, December 11, 2019

CHEK News has confirmed with Maritime Forces Pacific and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria that three people were on board the small aircraft. It left Bishop Airfield in California at some point on Tuesday.

The aircraft was attempting to land in Nanaimo and crashed on approach. It is unclear whether there was a mayday call but it is believed it was a scheduled landing, not an emergency landing.

READ MORE: ‘You’re just looking for survivors:’ Witness describes moments plane crashed on Gabriola Island

Bahlsen, 61, was headed back to Canada from Mexico when the Piper Aerostar he was flying crashed on the island, just east of Nanaimo, B.C.

Business associates and friends told CBC Bahlsen, who was originally from Germany, had moved from Calgary to Vancouver Island in the past year and often flew Twin Beech float planes out of Mill Bay, where he lived with his wife.

Bahlsen, who had been living in Canada for about 30 years, built his life as a pilot and an instructor and even worked directly for the TSB as an examiner for a period of time.

He flew small aircraft from float planes to helicopters. Bahlsen also owned a flight school on a property with his own personal runway at a business called A.J. Flying Ranch in Cayley, Alta.

“In July, every other year, the Bomber Command Museum hosts the Joe English Memorial Fly-In at Alex Bahlsen’s AJ Flying Ranch, east of Cayley, Alberta. He was a good supporter at the events and fundraisers at the museum,” the Bomber Command Museum wrote on Facebook.

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP have confirmed there were no survivors from the crash, but have not said how many people were aboard the small plane, only that there were multiple fatalities.

READ MORE: Several people dead after plane crashes on Gabriola Island

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) says it is investigating the crash. Three TSB investigators arrived at the crash site near Ricardo Road and Decourcey Drive Wednesday morning.

The BC Coroners Service says has determined that a small aircraft crashed in a wooded residential area on the northwest corner of Gabriola Island. There is a significant debris field at the site.

Coroners service spokesman Andy Watson said in a statement that the BC Coroners Service, in co-ordination with the Transportation Safety Board and RCMP, is gathering information from the scene to establish the identities of the deceased. Confirmation of the number of deceased and their identities from officials will occur once identification has been definitively established, the BC Coroners Service said, and their family members have been notified.

This process may take several days.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Manseau said the area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood but police were not aware of any injuries on the ground.
Gabriola Island, which has a population of about 4,000, is a 20-minute ferry ride east of Nanaimo.

There were six ambulances on the 6:25 p.m. ferry to Gabriola Island to respond to the crash. The Gabriola Island Fire Department was the first crew on scene and there were two ambulance crews on the island that also responded. BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said there was no impact on the ferry schedule.

The site was cordoned off in advance of Transport Safety Board investigators arriving.

Witnesses reported hearing an explosion and feeling their houses shake during the crash.

With files from Yvette Brend, CBC 


Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!