Helicopter accident has five CAF personnel missing and one fatality 

Last updated 7:14pm. April 30, 2020.

A CAF CH-148 Cyclone helicopter carrying six CAF personnel went down over the Ionian Sea off the coast of Greece on April 29, 2020. 

“They were flying from the HMCS Fredericton, homeport Halifax, as part of Operation REASSURANCE. One casualty was recovered and five are missing. All of them are heroes. Each of them will leave a void that cannot be filled,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a press conference this morning. “This is another hard day for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and for our Armed Forces families.” 

Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, a Maritime Systems Engineering Officer

According to Lori Geogievski, her niece Abbigail Cowbrough was on her first deployment and has been confirmed as the casualty recovered.

“My niece Abbigail Cowbrough, 23, on her first deployment has been confirmed as deceased. Send your thoughts and prayers to my sister Tanya Cowbrough and her (Abbigail) brother Simon Pittarelli who is serving in the reserves,” shared Geogievski. 

A Maritime Systems Engineering Officer, originally from Toronto, Ontario, Cowbrough graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 2018. 

“To their families, friends, and shipmates, our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. There are no words to describe the pain that you feel right now, nor are there any words that can ease it. Please know that the entire Canadian Armed Forces is with you,” said General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff. 

 Confirmed missing are:

      • Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Pilot, originally from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
      • Captain Kevin Hagen, Pilot, originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia
      • Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Air Combat Systems Officer, originally from Trois-Rivières, Québec
      • Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Naval Weapons Officer, originally from Truro, Nova Scotia
      • Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator, originally from Guelph, Ontario

BGen Sébastien Bouchard, Commandant, Royal Military College of Canada posted this afternoon that four of the  personnel were RMC ex-cadets. “It is with sadness that I have to inform you that four RMC ex-cadets were on board the RCAF helicopter that crashed yesterday. Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough (Class of 2018, Computer Science) was killed. The three others remain missing: Capt Brenden MacDonald (Class of 2007, General Science (Chemistry); Capt Kevin Hagen (Class of 2011, Aeronautical Engineering); and Capt Maxime Miron-Morin (Class of 2013, Aeronautical Engineering). They stood on our parade square and commissioned as officers in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“They marched with their classmates through the Memorial Arch, swords held high. Now, another name will join the names of our fallen who are immortalized on the Arch — forever honoured with those who gave their lives while serving Canada. Our thoughts are with Abbigail’s family this day, as well as with the families of those who remain missing. We stand with you. Truth Duty Valour”

HMCS Fredericton and NATO allies continue to search for the other five members of the helicopter’s crew.

The HMCS Fredericton departed on Monday, January 20, 2020, for a six-month deployment on Op Reassurance – Maritime Task Force. 

The helicopter was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea with HMCS Fredericton as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 under Operation Reassurance. 

Air Detachment members aboard HMCS FREDERICTON conduct a transfer training exercise during Operation REASSURANCE, March 12, 2020. Image by Cpl Simon Arcand, Canadian Armed Forces Photo.

At the time of the accident, the Canadian ship was conducting collaborative training with Italian and Turkish ships. The Cyclone was conducting concurrent flight operations.

“Yesterday was a tragic day for our military family. I am profoundly saddened by this accident and I want to express my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of our fallen member and the five who remain missing,” said Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command.

The deployment is part of a range of military activities undertaken by the CAF to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures. These activities include the provision of military capabilities for training, exercises, demonstrations and assigned NATO tasks and demonstrate Canada’s commitment to promote security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe.

“I was deeply saddened to learn yesterday of the tragic incident involving a Cyclone helicopter off the coast of Greece and the loss of our members of the Canadian Armed Forces. I wish to express my deepest condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues. Search and rescue efforts are ongoing with our NATO Allies for the five missing members and all available resources are being dedicated to this 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,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, minister of national defence.

The press release noted the CAF were providing their members and their families with as much support as possible to include a wide range of resources to help them through this difficult time.

During his address in the press conference, the prime minister said “that in the coming days they would be questions regarding the tragedy, and assured Canadians that there would be answers in due course.”

An RCAF Flight Safety team will depart Canada shortly to investigate the circumstances of the accident and will begin their work immediately upon arrival.

“Operation Reassurance is Canada at its best, bolstering security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe,” said the Prime Minister.

Statement from Royal Canadian Air Force and he Royal Canadian Navy Commanders

Left, Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Right, Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, issued the following statement:

“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.

“Our thanks go out to all those involved in search efforts and in particular our NATO partners operating in the area.

“This incident serves as a difficult reminder of the sacrifice that our brave men and women face daily while defending and representing our nation, both at home and abroad. It also serves to remind us all how dangerous even routine operations at-sea and in the air can be. In the face of these realities, the sailors and aviators aboard Navy frigates operate as one team – one family – a family that today mourns together.

“To the families and loved ones of Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, and Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke – we extend our deepest sympathies. As we take the time to come to terms with this tragedy, our thoughts are with you and we stand ready to support you through these difficult times.”

Top Image: Captain Kevin Hagen, Pilot, Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Pilot, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, a Maritime Systems Engineering Officer, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, Air Combat Systems Officer, Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke, Naval Warfare Officer, Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator were involved in an accident over the Ionian Sea on April 29, 2020. 

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