Two men, one woman killed in plane crash on Gabriola Island, B.C.: coroner

GABRIOLA ISLAND, B.C. — Authorities say two men and one woman died in a plane crash on Gabriola Island, B.C., on Tuesday after the pilot reported an equipment problem.

The BC Coroners Service says it has identified one of the three deceased as a man in his 60s from Mill Bay, B.C., while it's still working to confirm the identities of the other man and woman.

Friends have said charter pilot Alex Bahlsen was among those killed, describing him as a very good friend and grandfather who lived with his wife in Mill Bay.

Transport Canada also says there were three fatalities in the crash of the privately registered Piper plane flying from Bishop, Calif., to Nanaimo, B.C.

The agency reported the information on Friday in its Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System, which it says contains preliminary, unsubstantiated data that can change.

The entry in the system says the operator reported an equipment issue and deviated from the approach before dropping off radar.

Transport Canada says investigators have completed their work at the site of the accident after spending three days documenting the aircraft, interviewing witnesses and collecting data, and the wreckage has now been removed for further analysis.

First responders received reports of a possible plane crash on the small island, just east of Nanaimo, shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

The coroners' service says confirming identification of the man and woman killed is subject to post-mortem testing results and other investigative work.

It also continues to investigate the circumstances that led to the deaths.

The service adds it won't release the names of the deceased in order to protect their privacy.

Friends have said Bahlsen was born in Germany and moved to Cayley, Alta., 30 years ago before relocating to Mill Bay about a year ago.

"He was a kind, caring, very intelligent, adventurous and fun guy — very talented," said his friend Rasmus Rydstrom-Poulsen.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2019.

The Canadian Press