Canadian soldier dies during training exercise in Bulgaria
A Canadian soldier has died from injuries sustained during a training exercise in Bulgaria, Global News has learned.
Bombardier Patrick Labrie was parachuting on Monday evening in Cheshnegirovo, about 170 kilometres east of the capital, Sofia, when the accident occurred.
Military officials believe something went wrong with his parachute, but a full investigation will be conducted.
Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, confirmed the death before heading into a Liberal cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday.
“We did have a soldier killed on training in Bulgaria,” he told reporters. “The primary next of kin have been notified, we just want to make sure the whole family is aware.”
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) soldier was based in Petawawa, Ontario, which is located in the Ottawa Valley. He was a member of the second regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, the Department of National Defence said in a statement.
Officials said Labrie was participating in an American-run exercise with the XVIII Airborne Corps at the time.
According to the Government of Canada, the CAF has members serving in Central and Eastern Europe as part of NATO’s “assurance and deterrence measures.”
The soldier was participating in Swift Response 2019, an American training exercise led by the U.S. Global Response Force. The program is taking place at several locations in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania and is scheduled to finish next week, according to the U.S. Army Europe website.
In a promotional video for Swift Response, soldiers can be seen participating in parachuting and other training drills. The training is intended to “increase readiness, strengthen partnerships, and improve interoperability” for 5,600 troops from across three allied countries.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Bombardier Patrick Labrie. Not only is his death a painful loss to his family and friends, but we feel this loss across the Canadian Army and throughout the entire military community,” Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier said in a statement.
“Chief Warrant Stu Hartnell and I extend our sincere condolences, on behalf of all ranks of the Canadian Army, to the family and friends of Bombardier Labrie.”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday evening, Lt. Col. Dan Matheson said Labrie was in a Canadian aircraft and was using Canadian equipment at the time of the accident.
According to Matheson, Labrie was a certified jumper, who had jumped a number of times before.
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Matheson described Labrie as an “excellent soldier,” with “many friends within the regiment.”
“Our thoughts are with Patrick’s family and friends who are no doubt struggling with the loss of such a fine young soldier,” he said.
“Patrick was a really fine gunner and we’re really going to miss him,” Matheson said. “This is a really hard day for us.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Tuesday, offering his condolences.
“Canadians mourn today with the family and loved ones of the Canadian soldier killed in a training exercise in Bulgaria yesterday,” he wrote. “Bombardier Patrick Labrie’s brave service to our country will not be forgotten.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he was “saddened” to hear of Labrie’s passing.
“Saddened to learn of the death of a Canadian Armed Forces member in Exercise Swift Response in Bulgaria,” Scheer wrote on Twitter. “On behalf of Canada’s Conservatives, Jill and I extend our condolences to their family and loved ones. To all members of the CAF, thank you for your service to Canada.”
-With files from Hannah Jackson
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