Community remembering young student pilot; family releases statement


DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – “Bright, talented and kind.” That’s how Olivia Dahl’s parents are describing her, days after her death in a plane crash in Door County.

Sixteen-year-old Olivia and 69-year-old Ralph Keller, the pilot of that plane, were traveling back to the Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport after one of Olivia’s flight lessons in Green Bay. Both were killed when the plane crashed in Peninsula State Park.

As part of the grieving process, students at Gibraltar High School decorated an area in Olivia’s honor. The sidewalks are decorated with chalk messages and the chain link fence is colorful, even featuring red glasses similar to glasses Olivia once wore. We met her grandmother there, who said the display is a nice tribute to Olivia. The messages show classmates were well aware of her love of flying.

Her family says Olivia was the first recipient of the Friends of Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport’s scholarship program to get more people flying. The program was paying for her flight lessons and everything included with that, except transportation to and from the lessons. Her family says that’s why she was in the plane Sunday, and Keller volunteered to take her to her lesson and back.

“They said occasionally someone would be available to fly her down, shaving an hour of travel there and back,” a statement from the Dahl family reads. “That was why she was in the plane Sunday night. Mr. Keller offered to take her. The Friends group was very excited that Olivia was going through the program, and they are all just as heartsick about what happened. Still and all, they feel as we do that young people who have the desire to learn to fly should take advantage of opportunities like this and not let something like this prevent them from going for it.”

They say Olivia was preparing for her first solo flight, and they believe if there were anything that could have been done to prevent the crash, “Olivia would have known to do it.”

Olivia’s parents, Jennifer and Collin Dahl, released a statement to Action 2 News on Wednesday:

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.”

The family is asking people to support two causes close to them: the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth and the Friends of Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport. Olivia Dahl attended summer camps held by the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth.

Funeral arrangements are still being made. Casperson Funeral Home says details will be announced in the coming days.

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