The outpouring of grief has been intense after the Sept. 18 crash of a Cessna 182 in Peninsula State Park that took the life of 16-year-old student pilot Olivia Dahl and Ralph Keller, the 69-year-old owner of the Cessna who was transporting Olivia from her flying lesson in Green Bay.
The crash was reported to the Door County Sheriff’s Department at about 8:30 pm Sunday, but the exact crash site was not known until Ryan Sherman, a Gibraltar resident, found the crash at about 10 pm just off of a trail in the park.
Olivia was a senior at Gibraltar High School. Gibraltar School District Administrator Tina Van Meer released this statement: “She was a remarkable young woman. Olivia was highly intellectual, loved looking for unique learning opportunities, and stood out in our band as an extraordinary bassoon player. She was courageous and bold in all aspects of her life. Olivia will be deeply missed by her family, friends, and the Gibraltar staff.”
Van Meer went on to state that the district implemented a plan to help students through the tragic event.
“District personnel are available to students who need special attention and support. We are grateful to the other Door County schools that have provided additional counselors to assist during this difficult time,” she wrote. “We would also like to thank the Door County Sheriff’s Department for their support and collaboration. School counselors and administrators will continue to be available to our students and staff. As the school district comes together to grieve the loss of Olivia, our first priority is to ensure that students, families, and staff members have the support they need. The district respectfully values the privacy of our families. We encourage parents to contact us if they feel that their child or family needs additional assistance. Please keep the Dahl family in your thoughts and prayers.”
The Dahl family issued their own statement:
“Our Olivia was a bright, talented, and kind young woman, who continually surprised us by her intelligence and sense of humor. We are finding out now that she touched more lives than we could ever have imagined, by the many communications we’ve received and people we’ve seen since the accident.
“All of her life, she was the kind of person who, when she was truly interested in something, she learned all that she could about it, and flying was no different. Her instructor told us she was a natural at flying, was coming along extremely well in her lessons, and was very studious and prepared, which she very much appreciated as a teacher. Olivia was at a point where she was soon to take her first solo flight, and if there had been anything that could have been done to prevent the accident, Olivia would have known to do it.
“As parents, we understood there would forever be risks to becoming a pilot. We would like for other young people in our community and beyond who have an interest in flying to not be deterred by what happened to Olivia, because accidents happen in life to people both young and old, and because if you never take any risks, you will never know the thrills and treasures life has to offer. Olivia chose an exciting path for herself, and went all in with that drive, intensity and fearlessness that is common to gifted people of all walks of life.”
~ Jennifer and Collin Dahl
Keller was a resident of Sister Bay and LaGrange Park, Ill. He was known as an enthusiastic supporter of aviation who enjoyed introducing others to flying, as evidenced by the many trips he gave to youngsters through the Young Eagles program at the annual Young Eagles Flight Rally at the Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport.
What caused Keller’s Cessna 182 to crash is not yet known. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are now investigating.