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Air transportation safety investigation A15O0031

The TSB has completed this investigation. The report was published on 03 October 2016.

Table of contents

In-flight breakup

Piper PA-32RT-300T, C-GDWA
French River Provincial Park, Ontario

View final report

The occurrence

On 17 March 2015, at 1509 Eastern Daylight Time, a privately registered Piper PA-32RT-300T (registration C-GDWA, serial number 32R-7987047) with 3 people on board departed Sudbury, Ontario, on an instrument flight rules flight to Winston Salem, North Carolina. Approximately 30 nautical miles south of the Sudbury Airport, at an altitude of 10 000 feet above sea level (asl), the pilot advised air traffic control that there was a problem and that the aircraft was returning to Sudbury. Air traffic control cleared the aircraft to a lower altitude, and observed it turning and descending on radar. During the descent, the aircraft disappeared from radar at 8900 feet asl, then reappeared momentarily at 6300 feet asl and 3800 feet asl, after which there were no further radar contacts. Moments later, the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter emitted a brief signal that was detected by the Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue satellite system. A search for the aircraft was initiated, and wreckage was located the following morning. The aircraft had broken up in flight, and debris was found as far as 6500 feet from the main crash site. A post-crash fire had destroyed most of the main wreckage. All 3 people on board were fatally injured. The accident occurred during daylight hours at approximately 1534 Eastern Daylight Time.

Media Materials

News release


Lack of recent experience and fatigue led to fatal March 2015 loss of control near Sudbury, Ontario
Read the news release

Deployment Notice


TSB deploys a team to an accident involving a Piper Cherokee that occurred north of Georgian Bay, Ontario

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is deploying a team to an accident involving a Piper Cherokee aircraft that occurred north of Georgian Bay, Ontario. The TSB will gather information and assess the occurrence.

Investigation information

Map showing the location of the occurrence


Photo of Peter Rowntree

Mr. Rowntree has 26 years of civil aviation experience. He joined the TSB in November 1997 as an investigator/technical specialist in the TSB Air Investigations Ontario Regional Office, in Richmond Hill, Ontario

Prior to joining the TSB, he worked as an aircraft maintenance supervisor in the arctic for a major Canadian air carrier. During that time, he maintained and supervised the maintaining of different aircraft types, from small aircraft to the larger commuter and jet aircraft. Mr. Rowntree was also certified flight attendant and volunteer fire fighter.

Since joining the TSB, Mr. Rowntree has participated in numerous investigations and several major TSB investigations, most notably; the 1998 investigation into Swiss Air 111 in Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, the 2004 investigation into the MK Airlines accident in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 2005 investigation into Air France accident in Toronto, Ontario, the 2009 Cougar Helicopter accident in St. John's, Newfoundland and the 2011 First Air accident in Resolute, Nunavut. On behalf of the TSB, he has also assisted numerous foreign investigation agencies in their investigations of accidents abroad.

  Download high-resolution photos from the TSB Flickr page.

Class of investigation

This is a class 3 investigation. These investigations analyze a small number of safety issues, and may result in recommendations. Class 3 investigations are generally completed within 450 days. For more information, see the Policy on Occurrence Classification.

TSB investigation process

There are 3 phases to a TSB investigation

  1. Field phase: a team of investigators examines the occurrence site and wreckage, interviews witnesses and collects pertinent information.
  2. Examination and analysis phase: the TSB reviews pertinent records, tests components of the wreckage in the lab, determines the sequence of events and identifies safety deficiencies. When safety deficiencies are suspected or confirmed, the TSB advises the appropriate authority without waiting until publication of the final report.
  3. Report phase: a confidential draft report is approved by the Board and sent to persons and corporations who are directly concerned by the report. They then have the opportunity to dispute or correct information they believe to be incorrect. The Board considers all representations before approving the final report, which is subsequently released to the public.

For more information, see our Investigation process page.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.