Recovery of Canadian ill-fated military helicopter concludes

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The recovery operation for the Cyclone helicopter — Stalker 22 — that was led by a combined Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and United States Navy (USN) team has concluded in the Mediterranean Sea.

“After eight days over the crash site we achieved what we set out to accomplish – we located the helicopter, we have recovered some remains of our fallen and we have retrieved multiple pieces of the aircraft that will assist in the ongoing flight safety investigation,” Rear-Admiral Craig Baines, Commander Maritime Forces Atlantic, said.

The six members of the CAF were killed in late April when the helicopter crashed while conducting maritime surveillance operations. The helicopter was deployed with HMCS Fredericton under Operation REASSURANCE as part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2). 

“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 added.

As informed, this will only be completed once the remains have been brought to Toronto where any positive identification, as well as confirmation of the number of personnel found, will be done using scientific methods by a Forensic Pathologist. Once this is complete, the identities of the remains will be released to the families and then the public.

On May 25, the recovery team departed Souda Bay, Greece, on the EDT Hercules, which is an offshore multi-purpose support vessel that served as the platform for the deep-sea recovery. The ship arrived at the search site approximately 220 nautical miles east of Catania, Sicily on May 26 at roughly 7:00 p.m. Atlantic time. After about two hours of preparation, the team was able to get the ROV in the water and quickly begin the search for Stalker 22. 

The recovery team used a United States Navy “Remora” remotely operated vehicle, or ROV with a Fly Away Deep Ocean Salvage System (FADOSS) that was integrated for operations with the salvage vessel. This ROV was selected as it has the ability to operate to a depth of 6,000 metres; twice the expected depth of where the authorities had anticipated the CH-148 to be located on the ocean floor. 

For the most part, the weather conditions and the sea state over the past week have allowed the team to operate the ROV and locate the debris field in very short order. At over 3,143 meters deep with a debris field that spanned approximately 260 metres by 230 metres, aircraft components were found in a number of clustered groups, to include many smaller pieces that were scattered individually across the ocean floor.

Unfortunately, no portion of the main cabin was left intact following the crash, including the external cockpit structure. The largest piece at the wreckage site was the rear deck/ramp area of the helicopter and the next largest intact piece was the tail pylon and tail rotor blades.

“At this point, we are not able to provide any additional information about the individual pieces that were recovered given the current flight investigation.
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.”

The recovery team onboard EDT Hercules arrived at Naval Air Station Sigonella. The remains are being prepared for transport back to Canada, anticipated to happen as early as this weekend. 

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