Minnesota grocery store magnate Jim Kowalski died Thursday morning in a plane accident in Canada after he lost his balance and fell into the aircraft’s propeller, Ontario Provincial Police said Friday. The report from authorities discounted previous reports indicating Kowalski died in a plane crash.
Kowalski, 67, was the founder of Minnesota-based Kowalski’s Markets and a recipient of the Minnesota Grocer of the Year award. Initial reports suggested Kowalski died in a plane crash, but the new details into the grocery store owner’s death show that those reports were inaccurate.
According to the Ontario Provincial Police, Kowalski was standing outside the plane approaching the shoreline of Dee Dee Lake, where the 67-year-old was on a fishing trip with a friend.
"When the aircraft connected with the shore, the male lost his balance and fell into the propeller, causing significant injury," police said in their report of the incident, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "The male was transported by plane to the Red Lake airport, where he died as a result of his injuries."
An autopsy was scheduled to be performed on Kowalski’s body on Friday in Ontario.
Kowalski got his start in the grocery business working for the Minnesota chain Red Owl, which he bought in 1983, according to the Kowalski’s Markets website. He purchased another Red Owl in 1986 and other grocery stores followed. They have since been converted to Kowalski’s Market stores and the chain has 10 locations in the North Star State, mostly in the Twin Cities.
The business was set to celebrate its 30th year in operation this week, WCCO reported.
The Kowalski’s Markets Twitter account paid tribute to its late owner Friday.
“The Kowalski family & staff thanks everyone for their kindness,” the chain tweeted. “The memory of Jim & his legacy will live on in his stores & in our hearts.”
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also expressed his condolences.
“Jim left a lasting legacy in St. Paul and across the metro area,” the mayor said. “His passing is tragic and my heart goes out to his family.”