A Canadian military helicopter serving with a NATO naval task force has crashed in international waters while operating between Greece and Italy, NATO said on Thursday.
There were four Royal Canadian Air Force members and two Royal Canadian Navy members on board.
One of those confirmed dead by family members was Nova Scotia Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough. Cowbrough was a crew member of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter that was a fixture of HMCS Fredericton, a vessel that was deployed from Dartmouth, N.S., in January to join the standing NATO naval group currently off the coast of Greece.
Aircraft from Canada, Italy and Turkey are carrying out search operations looking for the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter with additional support from Greece and the U.S., NATO said in a short statement.
The helicopter was based on HMCS Fredericton, which had recently sailed from Souda, Greece, as part of a “mission of maritime situational awareness in the Mediterranean” including exercises with the Turkish Navy and Greece’s Hellenic Navy and Air Force this past week, NATO said.
HMCS Fredericton is part of the standing NATO naval group in the area. It has been on deployment since January. The Greek state television channel ERT reported that the helicopter had come from the Canadian frigate, which is taking part in the alliance’s Operation Reassurance meant to deter Russian aggression throughout Eastern Europe.
The crash reportedly happened in the Ionian Sea about 80 kilometres off the Greek resort island of Cephalonia. The Cyclone is a militarized version of the Sikorsky S-92 utility helicopter. The Cyclones replaced the air force’s five-decade-old CH-124 Sea Kings, which were gradually retired from service over the last few years. The crash of a Cyclone would represent a major blow given how long the military had to wait for the aircraft to be developed.