A 24-year-old flight instructor from Harv's Air died this past weekend in a tragic swimming accident.

Sandeep Bandaru moved from India to Steinbach in early 2019 to get his pilot's license. He then became an instructor late last year.

Adam Penner is the Operations Manager from Harv's Air. He says when temperatures soared on Friday, Sandeep and a number of others from Harv's Air made their way to Reynolds Ponds north of Richer to cool off.

Steinbach RCMP says Sandeep and two friends attempted to swim out to a small island approximately 100 yards from shore but he decided to turn around. Police say he went under the water on his way back. One of his friends was able to get to the area and try to assist him, however, he did not resurface. Civilian boaters who were nearby when Sandeep went under began searching. Officers also searched the area, but the male was not located.

On Saturday, June 5th the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team attended Reynolds Ponds and located Sandeep deceased.

Penner says the news rocked the team at Harv’s Air.

"He is a very well-liked individual, very competent pilot, very good flight instructor, very personable, and very friendly. It came as a huge shock to our group, especially to our Indian students. They come from so far to pursue their passion of learning to fly and when they get here, they form a new family, it is a very big bonding time."

The aviation community is a relatively small one, and Penner says they have already received a lot of support. He notes they basically shut down Harv’s Air this past weekend to work through the situation.

"We've spent a lot of time talking and praying with them and meeting with the group. We've been talking to the family, his brother and his father. A GoFundMe Me page was set up and very quickly they achieved enough funds to fly him home. We are planning a memorial, of course, we are dealing with COVID rules and trying to make that all work. We are spending a lot of time together."