Aviation Investigation A15O0031

Collision with terrain

The occurrence

On 17 March 2015, a Piper PA-32RT-300T, with three people on board departed Sudbury, Ontario, on an IFR flight to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Approximately 30 NM south of Sudbury at an altitude of 10,000 feet the pilot turned the aircraft back and advised Air Traffic Control that the flight was returning. This was the last radio communication from the pilot and no reason was specified for the return. ATC cleared the aircraft to a lower altitude and observed it turning and descending on radar. During the descent the aircraft disappeared from radar at 8800 feet then reappeared momentarily at 6300 feet after which there were no further radar contacts. Moments later there was a brief signal from the aircraft's Electronic Locator Transmitter which ended abruptly. The aircraft was located the following morning. All three people on board were fatally injured. The aircraft suffered an in-flight breakup and debris was found over an area covering approximately 1.25 NM. A post-crash fire destroyed most of the main wreckage.

Map of the area


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.

Transportation Safety Board 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.