Ceremony planned for service members killed in helicopter crash

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OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is planning to hold a ramp ceremony Wednesday to honour the six service members who went down with a military helicopter that crashed off the coast of Greece, even though the remains of five have not been recovered.

The ceremony will be held at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario and include the friends and family of all six who were aboard the Cyclone helicopter when it crashed into the Ionian Sea during a training accident on April 29.

The ceremony will coincide with the repatriation of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough’s remains, which were recovered following the crash and will be transported from Trenton to Toronto along the Highway of Heroes for a coroner’s examination.

The other five will be represented by different military headgear, depending on whether they were members of the Royal Canadian Navy or Royal Canadian Airforce. The headgear will be resting on pillows to be carried off the plane by fellow military members.

Those missing presumed dead are Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald of New Glasgow, N.S.; Capt. Kevin Hagen of Nanaimo, B.C.; Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin of Trois-Rivieres, Que.; Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke of Truro, N.S.; and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins of Guelph, Ont.

The Cyclone helicopter was deployed with the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton to Europe in January, where they had been attached to a NATO maritime force tasked with patrolling the Mediterranean and Black seas.

Cyclones are primarily based on naval vessels and used for hunting submarines, surveillance and search and rescue. They entered operational service — replacing the military’s ancient Sea Kings — in 2018 after more than a decade of developmental challenges.

The helicopter that crashed last week was code-named “Stalker” and took off around 4:35 p.m. local time as part of a training exercise involving the Fredericton as well as Italian and Turkish warships, according to chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

The helicopter was returning to the Fredericton when the ship lost contact with it at 6:52 p.m. The aircraft’s flight and voice recorders broke away from the helicopter automatically when it hit the water and have been recovered, but the main fuselage remains deep in the water.

A flight investigation team comprised of military personnel and a representative from Sikorsky Aircraft, which builds the Cyclone, has been in the area since the weekend conducting interviews and trying to determine the cause of the crash.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press