April 30 (UPI) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that a member of the Canadian Armed Forces was killed and five others remain missing after a military helicopter crashed off the Greece coast.
The Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crashed Wednesday in the Ionian Sea between Greece and Italy while conducting flight procedures with six service members on board.
The body of 23-year-old Nova Scotia Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a Marine systems engineer officer originally from Toronto, was recovered, the military said.
The Canadian Armed Forces identified the missing service members as Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, Capt. Kevin Hagen, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lit. Matthew Pyke and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins.
“All of them are heroes, each of them will leave a void that cannot be filled,” Trudeau said in a press conference on Thursday.
The helicopter was deployed to the Mediterranean with frigate HMCS Fredericton as part of Operation Reassurance to reinforce NATO’s collective defense in Central and Eastern Europe. At the time of the crash, the HMCS Fredericton was participating in training exercises with Italian and Turkish ships with the helicopter conducting concurrent flight operations, the Canadian Armed Forces said.
Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told reporters the frigate lost contact with the helicopter at around 6:30 p.m. as it was returning to the vessel.
The cause of the crash was unknown National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said, adding the helicopter’s flight data and voice recorders have been recovered and a Canadian investigation team has departed for the crash site.
Search and rescue efforts are ongoing for the five missing service members, he said, adding all available resources are being redirected to support the effort.
“This accident is a painful reminder of the dangers that members of Canada’s military face every day to ensure the safety and security of Canadians, he said in a statement.
The ship deployed from Halifax on Jan. 20 with 240 people on board for the six-month mission.
Vance said all CH-148 Cyclone helicopters, which are a modified military version of the Sikorsky S-92 introduced by the Canadian military in 2018, have been put on “operational pause” until investigations rule out the possibility of a fleet-wide problem.