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CANADA: Military ends mission to recover Cyclone helicopter crash wreckage, remains

Some debris as well as the remains of some of those lost in the crash had been recovered during eight days of searching

HALIFAX — The Canadian Armed Forces has ended its mission to recover the wreckage of Stalker 22, the Cyclone helicopter that went down off the coast of Greece in April with six military members on board.

The decision to halt the effort was announced Wednesday by Maritime Component commander Rear Admiral Craig Baines, who said some debris as well as the remains of some of those lost in the crash had been recovered during eight days of searching.

The remains of Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough and partial remains of Capt. Brendan Ian MacDonald were recovered shortly after the Cyclone crashed within sight of the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton while returning from a NATO training mission on April 29.

The other four Canadian Armed Forces members on board — Capt. Kevin Hagen, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins — are presumed dead.

The crash caused the worst loss of life in one day for the Canadian Armed Forces since six Canadian soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan on Easter Sunday 2007.

"While we were able to recover remains of some of our fallen, it is important to note that we have not identified these remains and it is unknown at this time whether we have found everyone," Baines said during a news conference in Halifax.

The recovered remains are expected to be returned to Canada over the weekend and taken to Toronto for forensic identification.

The Canadian Armed Forces recovery team, which was assisted by a U.S. Navy drone operating from a civilian support ship, was also able to retrieve some wreckage from the helicopter, Baines said.

However, he said the focus was on debris that flight-safety investigators believed could help determine the cause of the crash.

The military decided not to raise some larger parts of the Cyclone because they were not considered important to the investigation and could damage the Remora drone involved in the recovery effort, given the wreckage is 3,143 metres underwater.

"It should be noted that given the challenges associated with a recovery at this depth, we made the conscious decision to recover all discovered remains and only pieces of equipment that would be useful to the investigation," Baines said.

There is no plan to return for the rest of the wreckage, he added.

Neither Baines nor Col. James Hawthorne, the commander of 12 Wing Shearwater, the Cyclone helicopter's base, would comment on the investigation into the cause of the crash.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press