The remains of four of the six Canadian Armed Forces members killed when a Cyclone helicopter crashed into the Ionian Sea off Greece in late April have been identified.
In a news release, the Department of National Defence (DND) says the remains were positively identified Thursday by the Chief Coroner for Ontario.
They include Capt. Kevin Hagen, a pilot originally from Nanaimo, B.C., Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer originally from Becancour, Quebec, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, a naval warfare officer originally from Truro, N.S., and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, an airborne electronic sensor operator originally from Guelph, Ont.
The remains were found during a combined search and recovery operation with the United States Navy conducted between May 25 and June 2.
The military says the families of all crew members lost in the accident have been notified and the remains will be released to the families over the coming days.
Ceremonial arrangements are also being planned by the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force in consultation with the families, and details will be released at a later date.
Navy, air force commanders extend sympathies
The remains of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a marine systems engineering officer originally from Toronto, were previously identified shortly after the accident. Partial remains of Captain Brenden MacDonald, a pilot originally from New Glasgow, N.S., were originally identified on May 9.
The commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, Vice-Admiral Art McDonald, extended his “heartfelt” sympathies to the families of the crash victims.
“I hope today’s news provides some comfort and closure to each of you,” said McDonald. “These have been dark days and these events have reminded us all of the perils of service at sea and in the skies above.”
The commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lt.-General Al Meinzinger, also extended his sympathies.
“Together, we’ll honour and remember the legacies of our fallen, while also standing behind those who will pick up their torch and carry on with the mission,” Meinzinger said.
Flight safety investigation ongoing
A Royal Canadian Air Force flight safety investigation into the circumstances of the accident is ongoing. The investigation is currently focused on aircraft systems and human factors as possible causes of the crash.
Earlier this month, the military said in a brief report on the probe’s preliminary findings that the helicopter did not respond to something the way the crew expected.
And in announcing a resumption of Cyclone flights earlier this week, Air Force officials said investigators have been able to recreate the circumstances surrounding the crash using information from the Cyclone’s flight-data recorders.
The problem occurred as the helicopter was coming around to land on HMCS Fredericton, officials said. The pilot attempted to make a number of manoeuvres while the Cyclone’s “flight director,” or autopilot, was still engaged.
Rather than turning off, the autopilot started to work against the human pilot before the helicopter crashed into the water at high speed.