Crew members named in Canadian military helicopter crash during training flight

The late crew members

One Canadian naval officer is confirmed dead and the search continues for five other military personnel after the crash of a helicopter during a routine training flight off the Greek coast, officials confirmed Thursday.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, said that Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough was a victim of Wednesday’s crash of the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter,  The Star said.

Her father Shane Cowbrough posted on Facebook that he was “broken and gutted.”

“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,” he wrote.

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The Regal Heights Baptist Church in Dartmouth also posted a tribute to Cowbrough, saying “our church family has lost a wonderful woman.

“We are heartbroken to share that Abbigail Cowbrough, who was on board the HMCS Fredericton passed away during a helicopter flight training exercise accident. Our prayers are with her family, and all those who have lost a loved one in this tragic accident,” the church said on its Facebook page.

The church shared two photos of Cowbrough. One was from the 2019 Remembrance Day ceremony, where she is pictured playing the bagpipes, and the other from mid-April, showing her on the ship. “This was how she was spending quarantine,” the post said.

On Thursday afternoon, the military named the other crew members missing in the crash. They are:

  • Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, pilot, of New Glasgow, N.S.
  • Capt. Kevin Hagen, pilot, of Nanaimo, B.C.
  • Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, air combat systems officer, of Trois-Rivières, Quebec
  • Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, naval weapons officer, of Truro, N.S.
  • Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, airborne electronic sensor operator, of Guelph.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the crew of the chopper “heroes” and highlighted the work on military personnel abroad, on NATO missions like the one that turned tragic, as well as at home, with ongoing deployments to long-term care homes to assist with the virus outbreak.

“They step toward danger to ensure our safety,” Trudeau told reporters Thursday. “They never say no. They are always ready.”

The CH-148 Cyclone helicopter was operating off the Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton when the incident happened on Wednesday in the waters between Greece and Italy.

Vance said the helicopter, which was identified by the call sign “Stalker,” was conducting basic training and was returning to the vessel just before 7:00 p.m. when contact was lost. Flares were then seen in the water, setting in motion a rescue operation.