The Canadian military is deploying a flight investigation team to look into the causes of a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece that has claimed the life of at least one service member and left five others missing.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed during a news conference that six people were aboard the Cyclone helicopter that went down in the Ionian Sea on Wednesday as the aircraft was returning to the Halifax-based frigate HMCS Fredericton from a NATO training mission.
Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance confirmed the body of one sailor, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough of Nova Scotia, had been recovered. Canadian and allied warships and aircraft were searching for the other service members.
They were identified as: Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, pilot, originally from New Glasgow, N.S.; Capt. Kevin Hagen, pilot, originally from Nanaimo, B.C.; Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, air combat systems officer, originally from Trois-Rivieres, Que.; Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, naval weapons officer, originally Truro, Ont.; and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, airborne electronic sensor operator, originally from Guelph, Ont.
The search has been complicated by a large debris field and because the helicopter crashed in water that is 3,000 metres deep, Vance said. It was unclear what efforts will be made to recover the wreckage.
“Until the search is done, we won’t really know the disposition of any wreckage,” he said. “I don’t know what other capabilities will be brought to bear over time. I have to leave that to the investigation.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the Cyclone’s flight-data and voice recorders have been recovered after they broke away from the helicopter when it crashed and will soon be returned to Canada for analysis.
A representative from Sikorsky Aircraft, which builds the Cyclone, is also going to the scene following a request from the military, alongside the Armed Forces’ own investigative team. The military has imposed what Vance described as an “operational pause” on the rest of the military’s Cyclone fleet in case the crash was caused by a fleet-wide problem with the helicopters. The Royal Canadian Air Force has 17 other Cyclones.
Hours before the news conference, Cowbrough’s father Shane identified his daughter as having been killed in the crash. “I am broken and gutted,” he wrote on Facebook. “Today I lost my oldest daughter Abbigail Cowbrough in the crash involving the Cyclone from HMCS Fredericton. There are no words. You made me forever proud. I will love you always, and miss you in every moment. You are the bright light in my life taken far too soon.”