1st victim in Canadian NATO helicopter crash identified

Abbigail Cowbrough

Jackie Dunham CTVNews.ca Writer

TORONTO -- The first victim of a Canadian military helicopter crash off the coast of Greece has been identified.

Abbigail Cowbrough was on board the CH-148 Cyclone when it disappeared over the Ionian Sea during a NATO training exercise on Wednesday, according to Facebook posts from her father and the church she attended.

The helicopter, which had been deployed onboard the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton, lost contact during an Allied exercise over the Ionian Sea on Wednesday, according to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The Canadian military hasn’t said how many people were on board the helicopter, but they said they have contacted all of the victims’ primary family members.

Early Thursday morning, Shane Cowbrough confirmed that his daughter Abbigail was among the victims.

“I am broken and gutted,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “There are no words. You made me forever proud. I will love you always, and miss you in every moment. You are the bright light in my life taken far too soon.”

The Regal Heights Baptist Church in Dartmouth, N.S. also posted about Abbigail Cowbrough’s death in a Facebook post early Thursday morning.

“Our church family has lost a wonderful woman,” the post read. “Our prayers are with her family, and all those who have lost a loved one in this tragic accident.”

The church also shared two photos of Abbigail Cowbrough. In one, she can be seen playing the bagpipes during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Dartmouth last year. The other photo shows Abbigail Cowbrough aboard the HMCS Fredericton, which she sent to the church to show them where she was spending quarantine during the pandemic.

Greece’s state broadcaster, ERT, initially reported that a Canadian helicopter went down between Italy and Greece. The outlet later said that one body has been found and five others were missing.

Cyclone helicopters typically carry four crew members, including two pilots, a tactical operator and a sensor operator. There is usually also room for several other passengers aboard the helicopter.

According to the Canadian Armed Forces website, the HMCS Fredericton left Halifax for Europe in January as part of Operation Reassurance, which aims to “reinforce NATO’s collective defence” and show solidarity with allied countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The ship visited Italy in March and was supposed to travel to Greece and the Black Sea as one of eight warships in NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, which provides a military presence in the Mediterranean Sea.

On Thursday, Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, expressed his condolences about the incident.

“I express my grief over the crash of the Canadian helicopter in the Ionian Sea last night,” he told parliament on Thursday.

Mitsotakis added that he intended to call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later in the day to extend his sympathies.

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Ben Cousins and The Canadian Press