A recent Royal Military College graduate, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, has been identified by her family as one of the victims in a military helicopter crash in the Ionian Sea.
“I am broken and gutted,” wrote her father, Shane Cowbrough, on Facebook. “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.”
“My beautiful daughter has been in a military accident and passed away. She will no longer pipe her songs to all those that loves her,” wrote her mother, Tanya Cowbrough. “The very beating no fluttering of my heart has stopped. Nothing can replace her.”
Cowbrough graduated from Royal Military College in Kingston in 2018 with a Computer Science degree. She was an avid and talented bagpiper, often recognized for her musical contributions at military events and at her home church, the Regal Heights Baptist Church in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
“Our church family has lost a wonderful woman,” wrote the church in an announcement to its congregation. “Our prayers are with her family, and all those who have lost a loved one in this tragic accident. We will surround her family as we walk with them through this.”
Cowbrough, a Maritime Systems Engineering Officer, was onboard the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopter on a training mission in the Ionian Sea when all contact was lost with the aircraft. A search and rescue effort found Cowbrough among the wreckage of the aircraft shortly thereafter. The search continues as five other occupants onboard at the time of the crash remain missing.
The other five occupants of the helicopter were: Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, one of the Cyclone helicopter’s pilots, originally from New Glasgow, N.S.; Capt. Kevin Hagen, the Cyclone’s other pilot, originally from Nanaimo, B.C.; Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, an air combat systems officer, originally from Trois-Rivieres, Que.; Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, naval weapons officer, originally from Truro, N.S.; and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, airborne electronic sensor operator, originally from Guelph, Ont.
Three of those still missing were also graduates of Royal Military College in Kingston. Capt MacDonald graduated in 2007, with a General Science degree (Chemistry); Capt Hagen graduated from Aeronautical Engineering in 2011, and Capt Miron-Morin graduated in 2013, also from Aeronautical Engineering. Royal Military College released a statement of condolences on Thursday afternoon.
The Ionian Sea is a bay within the Mediterranean Sea, and is bounded by Italy, Greece and Albania. The helicopter, with the callsign “Stalker”, had been assigned to HMCS Fredericton as part of Operation REASSURANCE.
The Operation, based in Central and Eastern Europe, is there as part of a NATO mission to provide assurance and deterrence measures in the region. During the operation, which began in 2014, the CAF is conducting training, exercises, and some NATO-specific tasks.