The Canadian military is to hold a special ramp ceremony Wednesday at Canadian Forces Base Trenton to repatriate remains of a service member and honour all six who died in a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece.
The Cyclone helicopter carrying six Armed Forces members crashed into the Ionian Sea on April 29. Defence officials have said it was returning to HMCS Fredericton at the end of a NATO training mission.
The body of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough was recovered while the other five service members on board are missing and presumed dead. The remains of one other person have been recovered, but not yet identified.
One of those on board and currently labelled as missing was Vancouver Islander Capt. Kevin Hagen.
Capt. Hagen went to high school in Saanich at Lambrick Park Secondary, where he excelled in his schoolwork, while in pursuit of his pilots license through cadets.
“Outstanding is the first thing that comes to mind,” said one of his previous teachers, Tom Turnbull.“He was caring and kind, driven to what he wanted. I couldn’t believe it, talking to staff members was all the same, outstanding student.”
Hagen had Vancouver Island connections beyond Victoria as the pilot in his early 30s was born in Nanaimo and spent time growing up in Ladysmith and on Quadra Island.
Capt. Kevin Hagen’s brother said the Nanaimo pilot was supportive and accepting.
During Wednesday’s ceremony, Capt. Hagen and the other service members whose remains were not recovered will be represented by military headgear resting on pillows to be carried by fellow military members.
Following the ceremony, a procession will proceed down the Highway of Heroes from Trenton to Toronto.
“Despite the challenges presented by the current COVID-19 environment and the need to maintain physical distancing, 8 Wing/CFB Trenton is committed to a dignified and respectful repatriation for our fallen aviators and sailors,” the Canadian Armed Forces said Tuesday.
Physical distancing protocols have been built into the ceremony, the military said. Except for pallbearers, all CAF members on parade will remain two metres apart.
All in attendance will be wearing masks and gloves will be worn by pallbearers and those unable to physically distance.
While such processions have traditionally been accompanied by crowds gathering along the highway to show their support and honour those who have died, the Ontario government is encouraging people to watch it from home because of COVID-19.
A live stream of the memorial ceremony will be available on the Canadian Armed Forces Facebook page, beginning at 11:15 am PT.
Tune in at 2:15 p.m. tomorrow, May 6, to watch the live repatriation ceremony for our fallen members.
With files to Canadian Press.