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.
Trudeau said one body had been recovered, but the five others aboard the aircraft were still missing.
“We hold out hope to find the missing,” Trudeau said.
The Cyclone helicopter, which was deployed on board the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton, 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 air crew Wednesday evening and that flares were spotted from the water minutes later. Vance said flares would have been fired automatically when the aircraft ditched.
He confirmed that the body of Abbigail Cowbrough was recovered. The Nova Scotia native was 23 years of age.
Canadian Defense Minister Harjat Sajjan said the helicopter’s flight data recorder had been recovered but the cause of the accident was still under investigation. Multiple NATO countries were helping in the search operation in the Ionian Sea, hoping to find the five missing.
Vance said the voice and data recorders floated away from the wreckage, but fortunately their beacons allowed searchers to find them.
He also added that Canada’s entire Cyclone helicopter fleet had been put on an “operational pause.”