Cy­clone probe could take more than a year

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - OPINIONS - AN­DREA GUNN agunn@her­ald.ca @no­tan­drea

OTTAWA — The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a he­li­copter crash off the coast of Greece last week that killed six Cana­dian Armed Forces mem­bers could take more than a year, of­fi­cials say.

De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan and Chief of De­fence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance pro­vided an up­date on the sta­tus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion Thurs­day, a day af­ter a repa­tri­a­tion cer­e­mony for the fallen mem­bers took place at CFB Tren­ton.

“We con­tinue the search for the re­main­ing five fallen he­roes. In ad­di­tion to the on­go­ing flight safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion we are ac­tively work­ing to re­cover the fuse­lage, which will as­sist with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Sa­j­jan told re­porters.

The Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fence con­firmed separately that Canada's fleet of CH-148 Cy­clone he­li­copters re­main at an op­er­a­tional pause, which will re­main in place un­til of­fi­cials can rule out a fleet-wide prob­lem with the chop­pers.

“The op­er­a­tional pause was put in place as a safety pre­cau­tion while the Royal Cana­dian Air Force's direc­torate of flight safety in­ves­ti­gates the ac­ci­dent, with the ob­jec­tive of quickly iden­ti­fy­ing ef­fec­tive preven­tive mea­sures that will ei­ther pre­vent or re­duce the risk of sim­i­lar oc­cur­rences in the fu­ture,” a spokesper­son told Saltwire Net­work.

“It is not yet known how long the op­er­a­tional pause will be in ef­fect.”

The CH-148 Cy­clone is a mil­i­ta­rized ver­sion of the Siko­rsky S-92 he­li­copter, and re­placed Canada's fleet of Sea Kings in 2018.

Sa­j­jan said a Cana­dian Armed Forces flight safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion team com­prised of seven per­son­nel is over­seas in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cir­cum­stances of the ac­ci­dent. The team includes in­ves­ti­ga­tors, a med­i­cal ad­viser, a tech­ni­cal en­gi­neer ad­viser and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Siko­rsky.

The flight data voice recorders that were re­cov­ered fol­low­ing the crash are now in Canada, and are be­ing an­a­lyzed by the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil, Sa­j­jan said.

“Con­cur­rently, sep­a­rate mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tions will be con­ducted to help de­ter­mine the po­ten­tial causes of the in­ci­dent and to fa­cil­i­tate ad­min­is­tra­tive sup­port to fam­ily mem­bers,” Sa­j­jan said.

“These thor­ough and pro­fes­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions will help find the an­swers the fam­i­lies de­serve.”

Sa­j­jan said the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the crash could take more than a year to com­plete.

Vance said in­for­ma­tion about the crash or any eye­wit­ness re­ports are not go­ing to be re­leased to the pub­lic “in dribs and drabs” and will all come out to­gether as a proper flight safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port. He as­sured that wit­nesses will be in­cluded in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that full de­tails will be re­leased, when ap­pro­pri­ate, first to fam­ily mem­bers and then to the pub­lic.

“The flight safety team is like the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board. We've got to give them all the room and au­thor­ity to pro­ceed at the pace that they can,” he said.

“I know there's great in­ter­est in speed here. We're more in­ter­ested in ac­cu­racy.”

The Royal Cana­dian Air Force CH-148 Cy­clone he­li­copter from 12 Wing Shear­wa­ter was par­tic­i­pat­ing in North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NATO) train­ing ex­er­cises with HMCS Fred­er­ic­ton off the west coast of Greece last Wed­nes­day. It had con­cluded flight op­er­a­tions and was re­turn­ing to HMCS Fred­er­ic­ton when, ap­prox­i­mately 7 p.m. lo­cal time, it crashed into the Io­nian Sea.

The search and re­cov­ery ef­forts have been on­go­ing since. The Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fence has con­firmed there were eye­wit­nesses to the ac­ci­dent.

The body of one of the mem­bers, Sub-lt. Ab­bi­gail Cow­brough, orig­i­nally from Toronto, was re­cov­ered in the hours af­ter the crash, and five oth­ers re­main missing but are pre­sumed dead. Those in­di­vid­u­als are Capt. Bren­den Ian Mac­don­ald, from New Glas­gow, N.S., Capt. Kevin Ha­gen, from Nanaimo, B.C., Capt. Maxime Miron-morin, from Trois-riv­ieres, Que., Sub-lt. Matthew Pyke, from Truro, N.S., and Mas­ter Cpl. Matthew Cousins, from Guelph, Ont.

Ad­di­tional re­mains were re­cov­ered, but have not yet been iden­ti­fied.

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Chief of De­fence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

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