Koen de Vrieze was just settling into the retirement he had started barely a year and a half ago, in late 2016.
"He had some back problems and decided to call it a day," a former co-worker of his told Times of Malta. "He had told some of our colleagues that he wanted to enjoy life - that life was too short."
62 years old and still bubbling with energy, Mr de Vrieze's life was tragically cut short on Monday afternoon, in the horrific double-decker crash in Żurrieq. He was one of two people killed in the incident, with 50 others injured.
Mr de Vrieze's wife Hilde was seated next to him. She escaped unhurt.
The couple had landed in Malta on April 4, a day later than planned, after getting caught in flight delays at Charleroi airport, various Belgian news outlets reported. They were due to spend a week on the island.
"We're all in shock, we still can't believe the news," Sandra Bardyn told Times of Malta. "He was so energetic and so active. He still had so many plans..."
Ms Bardyn took over the financial reins at Trefpunt when the lively entrepreneur called it quits in 2016, after 13 years with the Belgian arts and music organisation.
Her voice broke up as she recalled the man she had looked up to.
"He was a family man, always positive and keen to get things moving," she said.
Trefpunt is responsible for organising part of festivities around the Gentse Feesten - a July festival held in Ghent and major event in Belgium's cultural calendar.
As the organisation's financial director, Mr de Vrieze was responsible for keeping its books in order. But that was not all he did, Ms Bardyn recalled.
"He was a force to be reckoned with, he could really connect people. If there was a diverse group in the room, he would be the glue that would bring them together."
The de Vrieze couple's three children left Belgium for Malta on Tuesday, Belgian media reported on Wednesday. "We want to pick up our mum," they told HLN.be.
As of Tuesday evening, seven people injured in the crash that cost Mr de Vrieze his life remained in intensive care. Three of them are children.
A magisterial inquiry into the incident is underway and the 24-year-old bus driver is being held in police custody under arrest.
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