Pilot who died in Gabriola crash loved to fly, fix things and tell jokes, family says

Alex Bahlsen was passionate about flying airplanes, liked to fix things, and was inclined to tell complex jokes, his family says in a statement.

Bahlsen, 62, was the pilot of a small plane that crashed into Gabriola Island on Tuesday night. Everyone on board was killed — Bahlsen and two passengers, a man and a woman. The Transportation Safety Board has said the pilot reported an equipment problem as he tried to land in Nanaimo, at the end of a trip from Bishop, California.

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“We as a family are absolutely devastated,” his family said in their statement. “We knew this day could come; however, Alex always had a way of making us feel like it never would. Alex was taken from us while he was doing something he loved.

“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.’ This was his general outlook on life. Alex was a fun-loving, big-hearted, down-to-earth guy who loved people, animals, adventure, and life.”

Bahlsen was born in Germany, and came to Canada to study at the University of Calgary. He was an heir to the Bahlsen biscuit empire in Germany.

While in Canada, he developed his passion for flying, his family said. He taught flying and also flew animals between Canada and the U.S. for pet-rescue organizations.

“He knew how to ‘fix’ everything from a scratch on your knee, something broken in your house, or a computer that wouldn’t start,” his family said. “His humour was unique; a joke would often lead to needing an explanation of German expressions that didn’t quite translate to English.

“At 62, Alex was taken too soon. We are devastated at the loss of such a force of life.”

He and his wife lived at a ranch outside Calgary and at Mill Bay on Vancouver Island.

A celebration of life for Bahlsen is scheduled for the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alta. on Dec. 20 at 1 p.m.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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