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Search efforts end after deadly RCAF helicopter crash near Ottawa

Click to play video: '‘They’re all family’: RCAF members grieving after deadly Chinook helicopter crash'
‘They’re all family’: RCAF members grieving after deadly Chinook helicopter crash
WATCH: The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has confirmed two crew members died in a training mission. Mackenzie Gray looks at why the military isn't saying much about the tragedy, how the tight-knit military community is in mourning, and how this isn't the first time the Chinooks have had issues – Jun 21, 2023

The search for two missing crewmembers of a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter has ended and the two members are confirmed by the military to have died in a crash early Tuesday near Ottawa.

The Department of National Defence confirmed the deaths in a statement Wednesday.

“The two missing air crew members from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CH-147F Chinook that crashed in the Ottawa River in the early hours of Tuesday June 20, were found last evening,” the department said.

“Tragically, neither member survived.”

The names of the deceased individuals are not being released at the request of their families.

The four-member crew was on a training mission when the Chinook helicopter they were in crashed into the Ottawa River near Garrison Petawawa, Ont.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the first to confirm any deaths from the crash Tuesday afternoon, but did not did not specify which members or how many had been killed.

“This incident is a painful reminder that members of the Canadian Armed Forces undertake great risks to defend Canada, whether in combat or in training,” said Defence Minister Anita Anand in a press conference Wednesday morning.

She said both of the members injured in the crash were treated for minor injuries, and have since been released.

Click to play video: 'CAF helicopter crash into Ottawa River near CFB Petawawa leaves 2 missing, 2 injured'
CAF helicopter crash into Ottawa River near CFB Petawawa leaves 2 missing, 2 injured

A team of more than 110 Canadian Armed Forces members on the shore and water, an Ontario Provincial Police marine and dive unit, and local fire departments were involved in the search mission Tuesday.

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Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre said the incident was a reminder that military service can be “dangerous work.”

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“Our people know the risks, and they take them willingly,” Eyre said. “Because they understand the importance of their work. Because they love their country.”

An investigation is ongoing into what caused the crash that happened during a night training exercise.

However, Anand did not give a timeline for when that might be complete.

“At this time, we don’t have a specific date for its conclusion,” she told reporters in Ottawa.

“Obviously, we want the investigation to be careful. We want the investigation to be fulsome and comprehensive and therefore, I am encouraging all involved to be as thorough as possible so that we can provide as much information as possible to the families, to the loved ones, to 450 Squadron and indeed to Canadians.”

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The helicopter had a recording device on board — also known as a black box — but it was not clear if that had been recovered from the crash site, said Maj.-Gen. Sylvain Ménard, chief of fighter capability with the Royal Canadian Air Force and former commander of 3 Wing Bagotville.

The deadly crash is a rare occurrence for the Canadian air force, with Menard saying only one incident like this has happened in the past.

“I want to reiterate that right now it’s a very, very good fleet that we are very happy with, with a great service record for this aircraft.

Out of respect for the tragedy, the 450 Squadron fleet will be taking a pause, but Anand said it was not a “formal operational pause.”

Governor General Mary Simon thanked first responders and those who participated in the search and rescue efforts in a statement Wednesday.

“It was with great sadness that we learned of the accident,” said Simon.

“As commander-in-chief, I have seen first-hand the loyalty, integrity, courage, excellence and dedication with which the members of the Canadian Armed Forces do their job. Today, we are reminded, tragically once again, that their job is also dangerous.”

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