Friends mourn Quebec singer killed in helicopter crash in northern N.B.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, September 5, 2016 10:29AM ADT
Last Updated Monday, September 5, 2016 6:35PM ADT
Friends say they're struggling to come to terms with the death of a Quebec singer and former amateur hockey player who died in a helicopter crash Sunday.
Roberto Bissonnette was killed along with the chopper's pilot, Frederick Decoste, in northern New Brunswick, according to the Capitales de Quebec baseball team, which posted a message of mourning on its website. Bisonnette was a co-owner of the team.
The team also said the its president, Michel Laplante, was injured in the crash but is expected to survive.
Bissonnette, 35, who also went by the nickname Bob, was a major junior league hockey player who turned to music after ending his hockey career. His website says he was about to go on tour.
Bobby Baril, who used to coach Bissonnette and now works with the Capitales, said his long-time friend was a beacon of light.
"When we had a bad day or a bad game, he would always be positive. He was an amazing guy to be around," he said.
Baril said he's been in touch with Bissonnette's girlfriend, who is distraught.
"Everybody thinks it is a nightmare, and we're going to wake up and it won't be true," he added.
In an emotional tribute posted on Twitter, former teammate and friend Maxime Talbot said he, too, was grappling with the news.
"I'm still waiting for a message from you to tell me it was a stunt, a joke, a media technique, a marketing strategy for your next show," he wrote in French.
Talbot says he admired Bissonnette from the moment they met.
"I thought you were so intimidating. I would never have admitted it to you but I thought you were so cool, so tough. Hockey players don't cry, except for now and the day after you were traded from Hull to Bathurst and I found myself alone on the bench," he said.
Alexandre Barrette, a Quebec comedian, posted a tribute to Bissonnette on social media.
On his Facebook account, Barrette wrote that he went to high school with Bissonnette, where he said the former hockey player was extremely popular.
Barrette wrote that he and Bissonnette crossed paths later in life, when they were both performers: Barrette a comedian and Bissonnette a singer.
"He told me he was proud of me! I was touched," he wrote in French. "I was touched that the guy who was popular in high school, the guy who made everyone laugh, he was the one telling me my show made him laugh! It was the last time I saw him."
"Your great kindness, your sense of humour and your smile will stay in my memory," he added.
Bissonnette was scheduled to perform a number of concerts in bars and theatres across Quebec, and some have started to post notices about the helicopter crash on their websites.
RCMP said the helicopter got tangled in power lines in the community of Flatlands, west of Campbellton along the Restigouche River. The aircraft hit an embankment and ended up in the water.
Patti Gallie, who lives near the Restigouche River, said she routinely hears the drone of helicopters above her home, but as she spoke to her mother on the phone Sunday, the sound was different -- louder.
She said she stepped out onto her deck, about 300 metres away from the water, and saw the helicopter hit the power lines then splash into the water, parts flying everywhere.
"I was in shock. I didn't know what to do," Gallie said. "I assumed that there was people, but didn't know how many."
She said the power cut out "instantly." As her husband made his way down to the scene, Gallie said two men who had stopped off the highway were pulling someone out of the river. Emergency workers arrived shortly after, she said.
Gallie said she is devastated for the families of the two men who died.
The Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
With files from Adina Bresge in Halifax