TORONTO — One person is dead and five are missing after a military helicopter operating off a Canadian frigate during a NATO exercise crashed into the sea between Greece and Italy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.
Mr. Trudeau said one body was found, and the five others aboard the aircraft were missing.
“We hold out hope to find the missing,” he said.
The Cyclone helicopter was deployed on board the Halifax-class frigate Fredericton and was participating in a NATO training exercise off the coast of Greece when the incident occurred, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.
Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s top military official, said the ship lost contact with the crew on Wednesday evening and that flares were spotted from the water minutes later. Gen. Vance said flares would have been automatic when it ditched.
He confirmed that the body of Abbigail Cowbrough had been recovered. A Nova Scotia native, she was 23.
“I am broken and gutted,” her father, Shane Cowbrough, said on Facebook. “There are no words. You made me forever proud. I will love you always, and miss you in every moment.”
Her death hit Nova Scotia hard as it’s already mourning the killings of 22 people by a gunman who went on a rampage two weeks ago. “Today, Nova Scotians are mourning another loss,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said.
Two of the missing are also from Nova Scotia.
Defense Minister Harjat Sajjan said the flight data recorder was recovered but the cause of the accident remained unknown. Multiple NATO countries are in an ongoing search-and-rescue operation in the Ionian Sea, hoping to find the five others.
The Royal Canadian Air Force’s Cyclone helicopters carry a crew of four, including two pilots, a tactical operator and a sensor operator with space for several passengers. They are primarily based on naval vessels and used for hunting submarines, surveillance and search and rescue.
The Canadian military only started using them on missions in late 2018 after more than a decade of developmental challenges, delays and cost overruns. The crash is also likely to raise questions about the aircraft.