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The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have named the five people who remain missing following the crash of a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-148 Cyclone into the Ionian Sea off the Greek coast on April 29. The CAF had earlier shared that the body of the sixth person on the aircraft at the time of the accident, Sub-Lt Abbigail Cowbrough, a maritime systems engineering officer, had been recovered from the scene.
The missing include the two pilots, Capt Brenden Ian MacDonald (from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia) and Capt Kevin Hagen (from Nanaimo, British Columbia); Capt Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer from Trois-Rivières, Quebec; Sub-Lt Matthew Pyke, a naval weapons officer from Truro, Nova Scotia; and MCpl Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator from Guelph, Ontario.
Capt Brenden Ian MacDonald, pilot.
Capt Kevin Hagen, pilot.
Capt Maxime Miron-Morin, air combat systems officer.
Sub-Lt Matthew Pyke, naval weapons officer.
MCpl Matthew Cousins, airborne electronic sensor operator.
The search continues for the five missing members of the crew.
The helicopter was deployed in the Mediterranean Sea with HMCS Fredericton as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 under Operation Reassurance. The Cyclone, call sign “Stalker,” had been conducting “basic inter-ship serials” and flight operations alongside an Italian and a Turkish ship and was returning to the Fredericton when the ship lost contact with the aircrew, according to Gen Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff.
Harjit Sajjan, minister of National Defence, said the cause of the accident is unknown.
The CAF said it was providing its members and their families with “as much support as possible” in the aftermath of the crash.
“A RCAF flight safety team will depart Canada shortly to investigate the circumstances of the accident and will begin their work immediately upon arrival,” the CAF said in a statement provided to media.
“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,” said Sajjan. “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.”
LGen Al Meinzinger, commander of the RCAF, and Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, issued the following joint 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.
“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.”
The CH-148, a militarized variant of the Sikorsky S-92 utility helicopter, replaced the CH-124 Sea Kings in 2018 after a drawn-out, decades-long procurement process and entry in to service. The Cyclone achieved initial operating capability on June 7, 2018, and conducted its first operational deployment on board Ville de Quebec in July, flying more than 500 hours and 170 missions while at sea as part of SNMG2.
Vance said the RCAF has placed an operational pause on the CH-148 fleet, which has about 9,000 hours of flying time, until the flight safety team can determine the cause.
“I don’t have any lack of confidence in the fleet,” he said. “It is a sub hunter and it is good at it.”