3 confirmed dead in Gabriola Island plane crash after 'equipment issue': Nav Canada report
Evidence suggests plane had mechanical or technical trouble, aviation experts say
Three people died in the plane crash on Gabriola Island on Tuesday, which happened after the Nanaimo Airport received a report of an "equipment issue," a preliminary report by Nav Canada says.
The aircraft hit the ground with such force that investigators struggled to even verify the plane's registration, according to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).
The TSB has confirmed the plane was on a private pleasure flight that had taken off from Bishop, Calif., and was headed to Nanaimo, B.C.
Aviation experts say the evidence suggests there was some kind of mechanical or technical trouble before the plane could land.
Alex Bahlsen, 61, has been identified as the pilot. Bahlsen owned the plane and had decades of experience both flying and instructing.
The BC Coroners Service confirmed Friday that it had identified one of the victims as a man in his 60s from Mill Bay, B.C.
The agency said a man and woman also died in the crash, and work is underway to confirm their identities. It will not release the names of any of the victims due to privacy.
TSB investigators wrapped up their work at the crash site Friday after three days of surveying the wreckage, collecting data and interviewing witnesses.
The TSB said the wreckage has been removed and will be stored for further analysis.
Part of the TSB's investigation in the coming days will include examining data from electronic devices that may be found in the plane, and by studying maintenance records and weather information.
Aviation experts who reviewed the crash photos and radar approach of the plane on the evening of Dec. 10 say the details of how it suddenly seemed to fall fits the scenario of some kind of instrument failure.
"If you lost those instruments, it's pretty much like losing your eyes," said former TSB investigator Bill Yearwood.
"I can tell you I certainly feel anxiety even thinking about it. I am a pilot and being in that situation and losing critical flight instruments … to think about it scares the hell out of me."
Transport Canada publishes a report of Civil Aviation Daily Occurrences called CADORS.
In the Gabriola Island crash, the aircraft was approaching Nanaimo on track for a landing using an instrument landing system when an "equipment issue" was reported and the pilot turned away from the approach, according to the CADORS report. Within minutes, the aircraft dropped off 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.
With files from Rhianna Schmunk and Alex Migdal