Norman Overdijk is shown playing poker in a photo provided by Canadapoker.com. He died in an ultra-light plane crash Saturday in Cape Breton.
BADDECK — Norman Overdijk of Middle River, Victoria County, is being mourned by professional and amateur poker players across Canada as a man with an oversized love of life who died the way he lived — hard driving and straight ahead.
Overdijk, 54, died on Saturday when his ultralight aircraft failed to lift on takeoff and struck a rural mailbox before plowing into the side of a barn on his neighbour’s property about 25 kilometres northwest of Baddeck.
A 26-year-old passenger was injured in the crash and taken by air ambulance to Halifax.
Stewart MacLeod of Rear Big Hill, a small rural community about 20 kilometres northeast of Baddeck, said living life large the way Overdijk did is just like poker. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.
“He played poker the way he died — rough and ready — and sometimes you get away with it for a while,” said MacLeod, who occasionally played poker at local games with Overdijk.
“He was the same away from the table as he was at it. Every- thing was full speed ahead.
“Norm played hard and he played with a beer in his hand, and that’s the hardest thing to beat at a card table. There’s a style of poker playing at tournaments where you get a whole bunch of chips early, or else you’re going to lose. And Norm played that style.
“It’s a braver game than those of us who sit back and wait till we know we’re going to win. Norm’s style was he couldn’t sit around waiting. It was all you can eat.”
In a 2011 interview with CanadaPoker.com, Overdijk was lauded for amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in winnings over several years and earning the title of points champion for the year in tournaments across the country.
He was also described as an adrenalin junkie who rode a Harley Davidson, flew an ultralight and was fond of skydiving.
In the article, Overdijk said he had only recently started playing tourney-style poker, which he learned at a neighbour’s house in Big Baddeck. He also played online for a while to get used to different styles.
Overdijk also said he enjoyed meeting people and playing competitively.
“I enjoy that I can walk into poker rooms around the country and have the friends I have made come up, shake my hand and congratulate me on my latest results,” Overdijk said. “I also really like that on the wall at the Atlantic Lottery office is a wall-size picture of me with my hands in the air after my 3rd (place finish) in their event.”
Asked about his aggressive strategy, Overdijk said he was “not a spectator, and I’ll play it for no other reason than for the love of the game.”
Danny Noseworthy, a poker pro from St. John’s, N.L., said he first met Overdijk last year at the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Ont.
“I’m sitting by this big, huge dude and he’s got the backwards hat and glasses,” he said. “Looks like he’s six-foot-four, like he’s in a biker gang almost, and you’d think he’d be like an intimidating guy.
“All of a sudden this guy is pounding beers and getting along with the table. I guess we just clicked.”
Noseworthy said he didn’t know Overdijk well, but he enjoyed playing against him.
“Not very often in the poker world do you get to meet characters anymore,” said Noseworthy.
“Some people just take it too serious. I’m very serious … but still, if you meet good people at the table, why not enjoy life? It’s just too short to not converse with people and get to know people.”
Several neighbours in Middle River said it wasn’t uncommon to see Overdijk and his rainbow-coloured ultralight flying over the area.
They also said he had crashed his plane a number of times previously.
MacLeod said Overdijk’s most recent crash hurt him, but it didn’t stop him from climbing back into the cockpit.
“The last time … he got up 80 feet and crashed,” MacLeod said. “He had problems after that. He had a lot of pain after that.
“But you don’t fall 80 feet and not get hurt. It probably would have killed a lot of other people, but he was a big, powerful man.”
In 2003, Overdijk received a three-year prison sentence for trafficking in marijuana after a Canadawide police operation involving the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
However, he didn’t seem to have any trouble with the law since then.
Neighbours and poker players said Overdijk’s death was simply the tragic outcome of his zest for life.
“He lived his life the way he wanted to and you’ve got to respect that,“ MacLeod said. “He lived his life on the edge and he knew what happened on the edge.“
Noseworthy agreed. “At least it’s cool that he died doing something that he loved,” he said.
RCMP and the Transportation Safety Board continued to probe the crash on Monday but had nothing new to report.
A 54-year-old man is dead and a 26-year-old is in a Halifax hospital after their ultra-light plane crashed into this barn.
A 54-year-old man from Middle River, Victoria County, died and a 26-year-old man from the area was airlifted to hospital after an ultralight aircraft crashed into a barn on Saturday.
The scene was cleared by Sunday morning but RCMP are continuing to investigate and the Transportation Safety Board will be participating, RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Angela Corscadden said.
Victoria County RCMP, Emergency Health Services and the Middle River Fire Department received a call just before 7 p.m. on Saturday that an ultralight plane had crashed near West Side Middle River Rd. in a rural area just off the Cabot Trail.
Corscadden said the 54-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene while the 26-year-old man received life-threatening injuries and was transported to Halifax by LifeFlight.
RCMP did not have an update on the young man's condition Sunday morning.
The names of the victims are not being released.
Middle River Fire Chief David MacKenzie said it appeared the ultralight was trying to take off from a field when it crashed through a mailbox across the road and headed straight for the barn.
MacKenzie said he knew the pilot, who has several years of experience flying an ultralight craft.
“It’s always upsetting to people when somebody knows someone in the community and they’re injured or died,” he said.