One body found, five missing in Canadian military helicopter crash near Greece

Written by: Angelo Cruz

On Wednesday, April 29, a Canadian military helicopter serving with a NATO naval task force crashed in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece.

Four Royal Canadian Air Force members and two Royal Canadian Navy members were on board at the time.

The CH-148 Cyclone helicopter was participating in NATO’s Operation Reassurance and was to be a boost to the security in Central and Eastern Europe. 

It was during an allied exercise that the frigate lost contact with the helicopter on Wednesday, the same day when it crashed in the Ionian Sea.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said that the helicopter was returning to HMCS Fredericton when it went down. At about 6:52 p.m. local time, the ship lost contact with the aircrew. “A few minutes later, flares were spotted in the water,” Vance said.

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has stated that the nature of the crash is unknown at the moment, but that the helicopter’s audio and data recorders have been recovered. He said Italy, the U.S., Greece, and Turkey are assisting with the rescue mission.

During Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s daily national address, Trudeau announced that of the six individuals involved in the helicopter’s crash, only one body was recovered and the other five remain missing.

“All of them are heroes. Each of them will leave a void that cannot be filled,” said Prime Minister Trudeau during the address.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I want to offer my deepest support to their families, their friends, their shipmates, and their fellow CAF members”.

NATO has commented little on the matter, only stating that an investigation regarding the nature of the crash and the recovery of the missing five was underway.

On Twitter, the Canadian Armed Forces posted on their Twitter account stating that all the families of those involved in the crash have been contacted and informed on the matter.

This incident is one of the deadliest in the history of Canada’s military-related tragedies, as well as the most recent.

In response to this tragedy, the Canadian military has decided to put all its Cyclone helicopters on an “operational pause”. Vance said.

Crew members onboard and family response

Of the six, only one individual from the crash was found and identified; Su-Lt. Abbigail Cowborough. The search continues for five others on board.

23-year-old Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough was a marine systems engineer officer with the Royal Canadian Navy, Vance said.

Cowborough was identified by her parents, who shared this information through their Facebook pages.

“I am broken and gutted,” said Shane Cowborough on Facebook when talking about her daughter’s passing.

“I will love you always, and miss you in every moment. You are the bright light in my life taken too soon”.

Abbigail’s mother Tanya Cowborough also posted about her daughter on Facebook, saying “nothing can replace her”. 

The defence department has identified the crew members who are still missing:

  • Capt. Brenden MacDonald, a pilot originally from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.
  • Capt. Kevin Hagen, a pilot originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia.
  • Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer originally from Trois-Rivières, Québec.
  • Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, a naval weapons officer originally from Truro, Nova Scotia.
  • Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator originally from Guelph, Ontario.

Prime Minister Trudeau acknowledged that today is another “very hard day” for Nova Scotia,  as they are still mourning the victims of a mass shooting, and for all Canadians. He said there will be many questions in the coming days about how the tragedy occurred, but “I can assure you, we will get answers in due course.” 

The six members were on a six-month deployment that began in January. Roughly 240 members left Canada on the HMCS Fredericton in January and they were scheduled to return home in July, Vance said.

Aircraft from Canada, Italy, and Turkey, with support from Greece and the U.S., are searching for the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter.

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