One of the victims of Wednesday’s Canadian military helicopter crash off the coast of Greece is being remembered as a dedicated air force cadet during her time in Peterborough, Ont.
Family members have identified one of the six crash victims on board the CH-148 Cyclone as Sub.-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, 23, a Maritime systems engineering officer with the Royal Canadian Navy.
The Canadian Armed Forces says the Cyclone was deployed on board the Halifax-class frigate HMCS Fredericton and was involved in a NATO training exercise when it crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.
A Toronto native, Cowbrough spent part of her youth in Peterborough, both serving as a cadet with the RCAF 534 Raider Squadron and as a pipe band member with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment – commonly known as the Hasty Ps.
Bill Steedman, a former president of the Air Force Club in Peterborough, says Cowbrough was a “very fine young woman” who learned to play the bagpipes with the Hasty Ps and also performed with the air squadron band.
He said Cowbrough worked hard to get into the Royal Military College to begin her naval career. She graduated from the college in 2018.
“She was an absolute force of nature,” he said. “She made a very distinct impression on me. One of my favourite cadets.”
Steedman said Cowbrough lived her life with “vivacity” and that the loss of life is tragic.
“I recall a spunky air cadet who invaded the lounge to sell lottery tickets and who, when she encountered my friend who was out of cash, escorted this former Royal Marine to the bar so that he could use his credit card,” he said. “Cocky, spunky and sweet.”
In downtown Peterborough, Cowbrough is featured on a mural of silhouettes on a business on Hunter Street, posing in a highland dance position and wearing a kilt. The mural was created by artist Justine Landry in the summer of 2012 – an art project for Landry at the former Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School.
“I created it with intention of representing the LGBTQ community of Peterborough and to spread joy, love and happiness to the downtown core,” Landry told Global News Peterborough. “I created it for that community but it’s for everyone to enjoy.”
Landry says Cowbrough were bandmates with the Hasty Ps and went to high school together – Cowbrough a grade behind. Landry said her sister Kaitlin and Cowbrough also performed together at the Ard-Mhor School of Highland Dance in Peterborough.
“She was determined, a fireball – she went into everything with gusto,” recalled Landry. “She just loved living life. She just bubbly and happy all the time and eager to help. She knew I was struggling to find people for my mural so she offered to be a silhouette to stand in.”
Lynn Mooney says she spent “many years” teaching Cowbrough highland dancing lessons at Ard-Mhor School.
“There are no words to express the loss of this beautiful soul,” she said. “Abbigail took Highland Dancing lessons from me for many years. She seemed to excel in everything she did.”
On Facebook, Cowbrough’s mother Tanya posted a message about her daughter’s death.
“My beautiful daughter has been in a military accident and passed away. She will no longer pipe her songs to all those that love her,” she wrote.
Last week, Cowbrough shared a Facebook video of her playing “Amazing Grace” on board HMCS Fredericton in tribute to Nova Scotia’s mass shooting victims.
A GoFundMe page has been established to support Cowbrough’s family.