Pilot from Vancouver Island on board Canadian military helicopter that crashed in Mediterranean Sea

Pilot from Vancouver Island on board Canadian military helicopter that crashed in Mediterranean Sea
WatchIt is a Canadian tragedy. A young woman is dead and five other Canadian Armed Forces members are missing after their helicopter crashed while taking part in a NATO training exercise near Greece yesterday. The missing pilot calls Vancouver Island home. Kori Sidaway now has more on the crash, its investigation and those on board.

A pilot from Vancouver Island was one of the members onboard a Canadian military helicopter that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Greece on Wednesday.

The Canadian Armed Forces have identified that Capt. Kevin Hagen, originally from Nanaimo, was one of six Canadians who were aboard the Cyclone helicopter that went down as the aircraft was returning to the Halifax-based frigate HMCS Fredericton from a NATO training mission.

Hagen, a pilot in his early 30s, was born in Nanaimo but also grew up in Ladysmith, Quadra Island and Victoria.

Capt. Kevin Hagen’s brother said the Nanaimo pilot was supportive and accepting.

“All I can say is that Kevin was a perfect brother to Christie and I. Every day I felt his unwavering love, acceptance, and support. Even though he was younger I looked up to him immensely. I can’t express how painful this is and will miss him forever,” said Kyle Hagen.

One member of the crew, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough of Nova Scotia, has been declared dead while Capt. Hagen and the other four are determined missing.

“Our hearts are heavy with the recent news from HMCS Fredericton. There are no words to describe a loss as tragic as this. On behalf of the entire Air Force and Navy family, we offer our deepest condolences, love and support to the families, friends and loved ones of all those affected by this devastating loss,” said Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force in a statement.

In addition to Hagen and Cowbrough, the onboard members included Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins.

The Canadian military has launched a search for the missing crew members, however, have said it has been difficult because the helicopter crashed in water that is 3,000 metres deep and complicated by a large debris field. While Canadian and allied warships and aircraft search for the missing service members, a flight investigation crew is looking into the cause of the crash.

“Until the search is done, we won’t really know the disposition of any wreckage,” said Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance. “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.

During an address to Canadians earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a message of support for the crew.

“They are all heroes,” Trudeau said Thursday. “On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to offer my support to the family and friends and to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, to the people of Halifax and to the people of Nova Scotia. We are with you.”

Sub-Lt. Cowbrough’s body has been recovered and earlier on April 30, her father Shane posted a message of grief to Facebook.

“I am broken and gutted,” he wrote. “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.”

According to the Canadian Armed Forces, Cowbrough was not a normal member of the Cyclone crew, however, Vance said she was authorized to be on the helicopter during the flight. Cyclones normally contain a crew of four, including two pilots, one tactical operator and a sensor operator. They have room for two passengers.

Canadian officials said that emergency flares could be seen in the water after the helicopter lost contact.

This story is developing and will be updated as more information is released.

With files to Canadian Press




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