Today marks the day six Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members lost their lives in the line of duty when a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, known as Stalker 22, crashed off the coast of Greece during Operation REASSURANCE.
“Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the departed, who will forever feel this loss. Also in our thoughts are the friends, colleagues, military families, shipmates, fellow aviators, and the broader Canadian community as today’s sombre date reminds us all of this tragedy.” Minister of National Defence Harjit S. Sajjan
On April 29, the helicopter crashed in the Ionian Sea, killing four members of the air force and two members of the navy: Master Corporal Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Brenden MacDonald, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, and Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke.
To mark the anniversary of the tragic accident, the Minister of National Defence Harjit S. Sajjan stated, “One year ago, we tragically lost six dedicated and passionate Canadian Armed Forces members in the line of duty when a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crashed off the coast of Greece during Operation REASSURANCE. They were dedicated to their work, passionate about serving Canada, and beloved by their crew, families, and community.
“Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the departed, who will forever feel this loss. Also in our thoughts are the friends, colleagues, military families, shipmates, fellow aviators, and the broader Canadian community as today’s sombre date reminds us all of this tragedy.
The helicopter was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea with HMCS Fredericton as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 under Operation REASSURANCE. 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.
The deployment was part of a range of military activities undertaken by the CAF to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures. These activities included providing military capabilities for training, exercises, demonstrations, and assigned NATO tasks, and demonstrating Canada’s commitment to promoting security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe.
In the statement, he also thanked “our NATO Allies, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the United States, who immediately came to our aid to locate and recover our fallen. We will not forget their friendship in that darkest of times.”
Master Corporal Matthew Cousin
MCpl Matthew Cousin’s career in the CAF spanned 26 years. He enrolled in the CAF in 1994 as an infantry soldier with The Royal Regiment of Canada. In 2007, he transferred to the trade of Resource Management Support (RMS) clerk. He then became an Airborne Electronics Sensor Operator (AES Op) in 2013.
Upon earning his Wings in 2015, he was posted to 423 (Maritime Helicopter) Squadron, where he was qualified on both the CH-124 Sea King and the CH-148 Cyclone aircraft platforms.MCpl Cousins previously deployed with the Canadian Army to Op PALLADIUM in 1998 and was a member of the Helicopter Air Detachment on HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN for Op REASSURANCE in 2016 and HMCS FREDERICTON in 2020.
As a loving father and family man, these career decisions were influenced by his need to provide more stability for his family. The adventure of the sea and working with the Air Force was just the adventure that Cousin was looking for as his children grew. His family and friends say he was an amazing father, husband, son, brother, colleague, and friend to many.
In a statement, his family described him as unique, humorous, and a good mentor. His best friend stated Matt is the most valued friend he has ever have or could have.
Capt Miron-Morin distinguished himself as an integral member of the CAF and Maritime Helicopter community in his profession as an Air Combat Systems Officer (ASCO). He enrolled in the CAF in 2008. He graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada in 2013 with a Bachelor of Engineering (Aeronautical Engineering) and received his Wings in 2015. Capt Miron-Morin qualified on the CH-148 Cyclone aircraft in 2019, with his first deployment being on HMCS FREDERICTON on Op REASSURANCE in 2020. Capt Miron-Morin holds a Master’s of Science degree (Oceanography) from Dalhousie University.
A statement written by his family read: Capt Miron-Morin was a loving and unfailingly supportive husband, son, and brother. He was a cherished member of his extended families and a dear friend to many. His family continued to state, he was a superb athlete and was a genuine, patient soul. His authenticity and approachable demeanour drew people in. He was very humble when sharing knowledge with others; he had the rare ability to teach himself anything.
Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbroug
SLt Cowbrough was a Maritime Systems Engineering Officer by trade. She enrolled in the CAF in 2014 and graduated from the Royal Military College in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree (Computer Science). She was posted to HMCS FREDERICTON in 2019, and Op REASSURANCE in 2020 was her first deployment at the age of 23. Cowbrough was a skilled bagpiper and had been playing since she was a child.
Following the deadly shooting in Nova Scotia on April 18 and 19, Cowbrough was recorded playing Amazing Grace on her bagpipes, standing on the deck of HMCS Fredericton, as a tribute to the 22 victims.
Cowbrough was a member of the Union Fire Club Pipes and Drums and a part of the band, 12 Wing Pipes, and drums based at CFB Shearwater. Her family describes her as willful, smart, determined, and kind.
Captain Kevin Hagen
Capt Hagen, a pilot, was 30 years old. He was born in Nanaimo, but family members said he spent time in many different communities off the coast of B.C., including Ladysmith, Victoria, and Quadra Island. Hagen enrolled in the CAF in 2007. The same year he attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., where he completed his Bachelor Degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 2011.
After graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada, he received his Wings in 2013 and was presented with the Gos Goulding Award at his Wings Graduation Ceremony, having finished at the top of his class. He was subsequently posted to 423 (Maritime Helicopter) Squadron. Qualified on both the CH-124 Sea King and the CH-148 Cyclone, he was on his third deployment on Op REASSURANCE. He previously deployed with HMCS FREDERICTON in 2016, HMCS ST. JOHN’S in 2017, and HMCS FREDERICTON in 2020.
A statement from his family described Kevin as a loyal, compassionate, generous, and determined man. Since he was a young boy, he wanted to become a pilot in the Air Force. Kevin also loved nature and outdoor adventures with his friends and family.
Sub-Lieutenant Matthew Pyke
Growing up in Truro, SLt Matthew Pyke was a community leader and a patriotic Canadian. Before joining the navy, Pyke was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown Rawdon, N.S., a small community about 55 kilometres north of Halifax.
A statement made by his family described Pyke as having an easy-going nature, sharp sense of humour, and as someone who loved to have a good time. It also stated that Pyke was his happiest when he was contributing to something greater than himself.
SLt Matthew Pyke enrolled in the CAF Naval Reserve in 2016 with HMCS SCOTIAN. He then transferred to the Regular Force in 2017 as a Naval Warfare Officer and was posted to HMCS FREDERICTON in 2018. Op REASSURANCE in 2020 was his first deployment.
Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald
Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald was born in New Glasgow, Capt Breden Ian Macdonald was a loving husband, father, son, grandson, and brother said his family in a statement. At a very young age, he decided he was going to be a pilot. As a 397 Trenton Royal Canadian Air Cadets member, he worked tirelessly to obtain his glider pilot’s license at the Regional Gliding School in Debert before he was old enough to drive a car and his private pilot license in Shearwater the following year.
A pilot by trade, Capt MacDonald enrolled in the CAF in 2003. After graduating from the Royal Military College of Canada in 2007 and receiving his Chemistry degree, he received his wings in 2010 and was subsequently posted to 423 (Maritime Helicopter) Squadron. He was qualified on both the CH-124 Sea King and the CH-148 Cyclone aircraft and has previously deployed with HMCS TORONTO on Op ARTEMIS in 2013, Op CARIBBE in 2014, and Op REASSURANCE in