A flight instructor was killed Monday morning after a helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff at the Region of Waterloo International Airport in Breslau. Tiffany Hanna, 29, was performing a routine flight training exercise with a male student when the two-seat Robinson R22 helicopter plummeted back to earth.
The helicopter crashed into a stormwater pond near a wooded area on the airport property. The instructor and the student were pulled out of the wreckage by rescuers before emergency crews arrived.
Hanna was pronounced dead at the scene after a failed resuscitation attempt. The student was initially taken to Grand River Hospital with serious injuries and was later airlifted to the Hamilton General Hospital.
The student, identified Thursday as University of Guelph student Scott Puillandre, is in a serious but stable condition.
Hanna, an Ingersoll resident, was a mother of two young boys and was one of Great Lakes Helicopters’ full-time instructors and pilots. General manager Jo Anne Leyburne released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the company was “saddened and shocked” by the loss of their coworker.
“Tiffany was more than just an employee; she was a great friend and confidante. We have all lost a dear member of the Great Lakes family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all families and friends at this difficult time.”
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is investigating the accident but the cause has not yet been determined.
Regional senior investigator Ewan Tasker said the aircraft reached an altitude of about 300 feet after departing the tarmac and then encountered some sort of problem.
“Shortly after, in a minute or two, the helicopter descended and landed very hard in the swamp area. It landed at a very steep angle, causing major damage to the aircraft.”
The TSB are unsure who was in charge of the aircraft when it went down; determining that fact will be part of their investigation.
Since the flight was a training exercise, Tasker said the TSB believe the student was in charge during the early stages of the flight but once a problem occurs the instructor often takes over and that may have happened during the incident.
John Cottreau, senior media relations advisor at the TBS in Ottawa, said investigators have gathered and assessed all the information at the crash site and the aircraft will now been transported to a TBS lab facility in Richmond Hill for further investigations.
“They will now be looking at every piece of the wreckage to determine what the cause of the accident was on Monday,” said Cottreau.
Investigators are still unsure if the accident occurred because of a mechanical problem or pilot error.
The TBS are working with a representative from Robinson Helicopter Company to determine exactly what occurred during the short flight.
Unfortunately smaller aircraft like the Robinson 22 Helicopter do not carry black boxes, flight data recorders or a GPS unit that could give investigators clues as to what may have happened.
No distress call was made during the flight, said Tasker.
Visitation for Hanna took place at the Brock & Visser Funeral Home in Woodstock on Thursday night and a funeral service was held at the funeral home chapel on Friday morning.
A memorial fund will be established for Hanna’s immediate family. Details are expected to be posted next week at the company website, www.greatlakeshelicopter.ca.