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In the early morning of May 27, a combined Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and United States Navy (USN) search and recovery team arrived at the CH-148 Cyclone crash site, which is approximately 220 nautical miles east of Catania, Sicily.
The Remora III remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) then dove to a depth of 3,143 metres and quickly located a large piece of the fuselage. Remains of the fallen CAF personnel were also found in the vicinity of the wreckage.
“This is encouraging news. We do not leave our fallen behind, and recovering Stalker 22’s crew is of the utmost importance to all of us in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence,” said LGen Mike Rouleau, commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command. “Retrieving the helicopter itself will also go a long way in helping us to understand what occurred on April 29. I commend the combined CAF-US Navy search team for their professionalism and singular devotion to this task, and my thoughts remain with the loved ones of our fallen comrades.”
Six members of the CAF were killed on April 29 when a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crashed while conducting maritime surveillance operations. The helicopter was deployed with HMCS Fredericton under Operation Reassurance as part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2).
The recovery team aboard EDT Hercules departed Souda Bay, Greece on May 25. It will continue its search for the missing members – Capt Kevin Hagen, a pilot, Capt Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, a naval warfare officer, and MCpl Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator – and additional pieces of the wreckage.
“While early search efforts have been met with a degree of success, the operation is complex and may continue for some time before we are able to determine that all critical requirements have been met to cease recovery efforts,” said RAdm Craig Baines, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic. “In cooperation with the RCAF, we will continue to keep the families and Canadians informed of the search results as it progresses in the days ahead.”
“We remain committed to staying on site for as long as necessary,” DND said in the statement.
The helicopter, which was carrying an aircrew of four plus two Navy personnel, was preparing to conduct deck hoist training prior to landing when the tragedy occurred within sight of the ship. The data modules for the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorders were recovered and are currently being analyzed.
The body of Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, a marine systems engineering officer, and remains of Capt Brenden Ian MacDonald, a pilot, were also recovered.
This information was shared with the families of the fallen in advance of public release, as part of the ongoing commitment to support them. A media availability will also be organized in the coming days to provide additional information on the operation.
Investigations into this accident continue with a view to identify effective preventive measures that will either prevent or reduce the risk of similar occurrences in the future. There is currently no additional information available on the cause of the crash.
With additional files from Chris Thatcher