The man killed Saturday when his small airplane crashed near the Guelph Airpark is being remembered for his dedication to his family, his field of research and his community.

Alfred Brunger, 63, was the sole occupant of the ultralight plane that crashed in a treed area off Watson Road in Puslinch Township.

Many members of the congregation at his church, Waterloo’s Mount Zion Lutheran Church, learned of his death from their pastor at Sunday morning’s service – prompting what Karen Gastmeier described as a “stunned silence” from the crowd.

“It was like this news was just simply incomprehensible,” she said. “We cannot figure out what it’s going to look like around here without him.”

Gastmeier is the chair of Mount Zion’s church council. Brunger was its vice-chair, involved in everything from its guitar choir to its community garden and tree-planting programs.

The environmental initiatives were a natural extension from the nearly 40 years he spent researching solar energy.

Doug McLennan, who now lives and works in Ottawa, says he and Brunger started their research careers together in 1977.

“They were only looking for one research engineer, but fortunately they changed their mind and decided to hire two people,” he said.

After eight years working together at the University of Toronto, Brunger left for the University of Waterloo, where he spent years as a professor.

But he and McLennan kept in touch and remained friends, often turning to the other for professional assistance.

“I knew I could always rely on Alfred for technical advice on just about anything,” McLennan said.

As McLennan tells it, Brunger’s passion for solar projects ranged from the scientific – helping develop a test standard now used around the world, for example – to the consumer-focused, like a device that cooked hot dogs using solar energy.

The Transportation Safety Board continues to try and determine exactly what caused the crash that killed Brunger.

A three-person team arrived in Puslinch on Sunday, and was expected to continue its work around the site for several days.

Ewan Tasker, the TSB’s regional manager of air investigations for Ontario, says investigators have already determined that nobody could have survived the crash.

The questions left to answer surround the moments before the aircraft apparently lost control, entered a “very steep” descent and struck a number of trees before coming to rest.

“Sometimes there are pieces of the aircraft missing, but in this case there was nothing obviously out of place,” Tasker said.

As of Monday morning, investigators had not figured out if the plane was built by its manufacturer, or if Brunger put it together himself. Neither scenario is uncommon.

With reporting by Allison Tanner