Jim Kowalski, the founder of a chain of supermarkets in St. Paul, Minn., was killed Thursday in an accident aboard a private plane in Canada.
The plane was still on the ground when an accident occurred, causing some kind of head injury, said vice president of operations at Kowalski's Markets, Mike Oase.
"It was not a crash," family spokeswoman Deb Kowalski said, "and we don't exactly know how it happened."
Kowalski, 67, was on a fishing trip with a friend and fellow pilot in Ontario province. The friend said he "heard a noise, and [Kowalski] was gone."
Kowalski and his wife took over a struggling Red Owl store in 1983 and transformed the business into a local upscale chain of stores throughout the Twin Cities area.
At the time of his death, Kowalski was still regularly involved in the day-to-day operations of the family-owned and operated store.