(The Canadian Press)

(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

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read