East Coast Navy community grieves after helicopter crash
DARTMOUTH -- It was just last Friday, when navy Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough posted a video on social media in which she played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes on board HMCS Fredericton in honour of the victims of Nova Scotia's mass shooting.
Now, not even a week later, her family is mourning her loss.
Her father wrote this on his Facebook page: “There are no words. You made me forever proud.”
Jason Cole is the pastor at Regal Heights Baptist Church in Dartmouth where Cowbrough and her family have been parishioners for the last two years.
"We're kind of all in disbelief," Cole said. "(She was) always positive, always bright, and just was a magnet to people around her. Our Canadian Forces have lost an incredible person."
Cowbrough, a marine systems engineering officer, was among the service members aboard the Canadian Cyclone helicopter that went missing Wednesday night off the coast of Greece.
Her body was the first to be recovered and there are still five other people missing. They are:
- pilot Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald of New Glasgow, N.S.;
- pilot Capt. Kevin Hagen of Nanaimo, B.C.;
- air combat systems officer Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, from Trois-Rivières, Que.;
- naval warfare officer Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke of Truro, N.S.; and,
- airborne sensor operator Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins from Guelph, Ont.
Gus Cameron is a navy veteran and a member of the Veterans UN-NATO group.
"She wasn't part of the flight crew," he said of Cowbrough. "She was a baby engineering officer aboard Fredericton."
Cameron doesn't know what led to Cowbrough being onboard the helicopter, but he's feeling the loss.
He met Abbigail and her father last year when they joined his local veteran's group in Halifax and she got the first patches for her vest.
Abbigail was a maritime systems engineer just like Cameron was. This, was her first mission.
"Us veterans, we're going to do something special for her once we get to be able to be social again," Cameron said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to change her patch to a mission patch, cause she was on a mission."
There are signs of support at 12 Wing Shearwater, the helicopter's home base.
At a time when the province is still trying to cope with 22 lives lost in the mass shooting almost two weeks ago, and is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a blow to Nova Scotia's tight-knit military community.
"There's more comin', and it's a sad sad day, sad day," Cameron said.
Defense officials say a flight safety investigation team will be overseas by Friday to retrieve the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the Cyclone to try to determine what happened as it was on its way back to HMCS Fredericton.
The crew was 100 days into its mission and is scheduled to return home in July.