One body recovered, five missing in Canadian helicopter crash in Greece

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Deutsche Welle | Europe

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said rescuers had found the body of one Canadian sailor after a navy helicopter crashed in the sea off the coast of Greece. The helicopter wreckage could be at a depth of 3,000 meters.

The body of a Canadian soldier was recovered from the site of a helicopter crash while five passengers were still missing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday, the day after a navy helicopter plunged into the sea between Greece and Italy.

"Yesterday, a Royal Canadian Navy helicopter on a NATO mission, carrying six members of the Canadian Armed Forces, went down with all hands in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Greece," Trudeau said in a press conference. "One casualty was recovered and five are missing."

The Cyclone Sikorsky CH-148 helicopter was returning to HMCS Fredericton warship from a training mission when contact was lost, according to the Navy's chief of defence staff, General Jon Vance. 

"All of them are heroes. Each of them will leave a void that cannot be filled," Trudeau said. 

"In the coming days, there will be many questions about how this tragedy occurred," Trudeau said, adding that Canadians "will get answers, in due course."

Justin Trudeau (picture-alliance/empics/The Canadian Press/S. Kilpatrick)

Trudeau said authorities would investigate the cause of the crash

Rescuers recovered the body of 23-year-old Sub-Lieutenant Abbigail Cowbrough, whose father confirmed her death. 

"I am broken and gutted," Shane Cowbrough wrote on his Facebook page. 

Search for the wreckage continues

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said the cause of the crash was still unknown but that the helicopter's cockpit voice and flight data recorders had been recovered. An automatic beacon was also discovered in the water.

Meanwhile, the search for the helicopter and the rest of the crew continues. Vance said a "very sizeable debris field" had been found and that the rest of the wreckage could be at depths of around 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). 

The helicopter disappeared Wednesday evening west of the Greek island of Kefalonia. It had been participating in exercises along with Italian and Turkish forces.

The Fredericton warship is part of a NATO operation to counter Russian aggression in Eastern and Southern Europe, Vance said.

The Canadian military has put all Cyclone helicopters "on operational pause" until the source of the crash has been verified, he said. 

kp/sms (AFP, dpa)

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