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OPP reminds drone operators it's illegal to operate a drone near emergency sites following Hwy. 417 fatal crash

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Ontario Provincial Police are reminding people that it is illegal to fly a drone over traffic collision sites, after drone footage captured at a fatal crash on Hwy. 417 in Ottawa appeared online.

A 37-year-old Ottawa woman was killed in the crash on Hwy. 417 at the Aviation Parkway early Thursday morning. Ontario Provincial Police say the woman was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes of the highway at the time of the crash.

On Thursday morning, drone photos of the crash scene appeared on social media.

Police say officers are aware that photos taken by a drone are circulating online, adding the victim's family had viewed the photos prior to being notified by officers.

"These photos contained images of the collision scene and of the deceased female," police said in a statement.

"We would like to remind the public that there can be unintended negative consequences for family members when collision or crime scene photos are uploaded to social media sites."

Ontario Provincial Police say a woman was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Hwy. 417 at the Aviation Parkway early Thursday morning. Police say one car was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes. (Katelyn Wilson/CTV News Ottawa)

"It's sadly, not the first time we've seen something like this. Family members of the deceased person had not been notified yet and the first they knew of it was seeing their car and tragically, in this picture, not only are you seeing this individual's car, you're seeing that individual's deceased body. They were partially covered up by a tarp, but you're still seeing it," said OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson.

"When police arrive to tell someone that a loved one has been killed, we offer services. We offer counseling, trauma services; we have specialists within the OPP — and Ottawa police have the same —where they can come out and talk to people and help them work through this development. You see it suddenly pop up on your social media feed, you're on your own, and it just makes a terrible situation that much worse. Sharing that on social media doesn't benefit anyone." 

The OPP is reminding drone operators that it is against regulations to operate a drone over a traffic collision site.

Transport Canada's website says drone pilots are not allowed to fly "within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation, such as a traffic accident."

"A drone flying near these areas may interfere with emergency personnel aircraft and the work of emergency personnel."

Anyone caught violating the drone regulations can face a fine of up to $1,000.

Alexandre Schmid and Alicia Krolak, founders of Swift Drone Academy, offer drone training programs as well certification. They say drones that weigh 250 grams or more must be registered with transport Canada and the operator also requires a license.

"Advanced certification basically allows you to fly in controlled airspace and closer to the public," says Schmid. "If you want to fly near a big airport like the Ottawa International Airport, you need permission by NAV Canada."

Typically, airports have a 5.6 kilometer no-fly zone radius. Also, in nearly every situation, a drone cannot fly above 122 meters.

"When flying a drone, safety is going to be your number one concern and it's safety for the people on the ground," says Krolak. "Privacy is a huge concern with these drones, that you have a camera that could shoot anything."

The two founders note that there are strict privacy laws in Canada that must be followed when operating a drone, even for recreational users, for instance taking close up pictures of a person's backyard or any emergency scene where a perimeter has been setup.

"The drone might interfere with life-saving activities," says Schmid. "The police are now using drones themselves in order to survey the site and you interfering with that operation by being an intruder is against the law." 

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Tyler Fleming

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