(The Canadian Press)

One dead, five missing after helicopter crash off Greece, Trudeau says

The search has been complicated by a large debris field, chief of defence says

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-class 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, whose identities were not released.

Vance said the search has been complicated by a large debris field and because the helicopter crashed in water that is 3,000 metres deep. It was unclear what efforts will be made to recover the wreckage.

The exact cause of the crash remains unknown. 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 being deployed to the scene following a request from the military.

“Sikorsky extends its condolences to all those affected,” U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin, which owns Sikorsky, said in a statement. “Sikorsky is sending an investigator to assist at the request of Canada’s Department of National Defence.”

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 in its fleet.

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.”

Josianne Garrioch, of Gatineau, Que., was a best friend of Cowbrough, who was a bridesmaid at her wedding.

“She was a really charismatic and bubbly person, and just somebody you wanted to be around all the time,” Garrioch said. “She was really loving and no matter what you did you always felt safe talking to her.”

The pair met at Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ont., where Cowbrough was in charge of the pipe band for a semester and Garrioch was in charge of the highland dancers. She said Cowbrough was an “excellent piper” who also excelled as a highland dancer.

“We sort of bonded over our shared love of the music and the dance,” Garrioch said.

HMCS Fredericton left its home port of Halifax with the Cyclone for a six-month deployment to Europe in January. While the navy has since recalled several of its warships due to COVID-19, the Fredericton has continued its mission.

While Cowbrough was not a normal member of the Cyclone crew, 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.

The Cyclones are primarily based on naval vessels and used for hunting submarines, surveillance and search and rescue.

The helicopter, code-named “Stalker,” took off around 4:35 p.m. local time as part of a training exercise involving Fredericton as well as Italian and Turkish warships, Vance said. It was returning to Fredericton when the ship lost contact with it at 6:52 p.m.

Vance would not say whether there was any mayday call before it disappeared. The flight recorders broke away from the helicopter automatically when it hit the water, he said, and were lit by flares that went off automatically.

The defence chief went on to defend the Cyclones, which the military has only been using on real missions since late 2018 after more than a decade of developmental challenges, delays and cost overruns.

— with files from Keith Doucette in Halifax.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Helicopter crash

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A new Lois Creek Trails website has information about the trails and history of the area.

Friends of Lois Creek, a volunteer organization in Kimberley, is pleased to… Continue reading

Kimberley RCMP pick up another early morning impaired driver

Another impaired driver has been picked up by Kimberley RCMP, this time… Continue reading

Kimberley Independent School students go seriously green

Huge garden and tree project undertaken by students, teachers

PHOTOS: Momma black bear and cubs spotted in Townsite

A momma black bear and her two cubs, spotted getting near The… Continue reading

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Most Read