British Columbia

'30 years of incredible memories': Family mourns B.C. pilot in military helicopter crash

The family of a Vancouver Island pilot presumed dead after a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece says he was a "an amazing young man" who left behind "30 years of incredible memories."

Capt. Kevin Hagen among those presumed dead following crash off the coast of Greece

Capt. Kevin Hagen is shown in a Department of National Defence handout photo. He is among those who died in a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece. (Department of National Defence)

The family of a Vancouver Island pilot presumed dead after a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece says he was a "an amazing young man" who left behind "30 years of incredible memories."

Capt. Kevin Hagen was among five crew members missing after a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter crashed Wednesday in the Ionian Sea while taking part in NATO exercises.

The Department of National Defence said Friday all missing crew members are presumed dead. The body of a sixth crew member — naval officer Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough — was recovered almost immediately after the crash.

Recovery efforts are underway for Hagen and the others — Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke and Master-Cpl. Matthew Cousins.

Hagen, a pilot, was 30 years old. He was born in Nanaimo, but family members said he spent time in many different communities off the coast of B.C., including Ladysmith, Victoria and Quadra Island.

He was a graduate of the 848 Royal Roads Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in Victoria.

Hagen was born in Nanaimo, but spent time in many different communities off the B.C. coast of B.C., including Ladysmith, Victoria and Quadra Island, relatives said. (Kevin Hagen/Facebook)

"Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones today as we all process the grief of losing an alumni of our squadron," said the organization in a statement.

Steffen Hagen, his father, said the family is devastated.

"This is too early for us to tell Kevin's story," he said in a written statement. "For me, his story is 30 years of incredible memories and it is so heartbreaking that it has been cut this short. In the meantime, it goes without saying that everyone in our family will always remember Kevin as an amazing young man who gave unselfishly of himself to others."

Steffen said his son was caring and sensitive, and the loss will impact all those who got to know him.

"He accomplished so much in his life but was taken from us all far too soon. Telling the world how proud I am of Kevin doesn't even begin to scratch the surface for those feelings of admiration I have always felt for him," he said.

A Cyclone CH-148, similar to the helicopter that crashed in the Ionian Sea, is seen aboard HMCS Fredericton on Jan. 30. (Cpl. Simon Arcand/Canadian Armed Forces/Combat Camera)

Kyrle Symons, a friend who was enrolled in cadets with Kevin Hagen, met him when the two of them were 14 years old.

"He always had a little smile on his face, and he was this really easy going guy," said Symons. "He had a lot of really close friends, and he was chummy. Everybody loved him."

Symons says Hagen was driven through his cadet school, chasing his dream to become a pilot.

"It was really fun watching him go through training ... Kevin's path was really exciting, and I'm glad he got to do what he wanted to do for his life."

Search continues

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Clockwise from top left: Hagen, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin. (Department of National Defence)

The Department of National Defence says additional remains were discovered during the search but they "cannot be identified at this time."

Rear Admiral Craig Baines, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, said Friday that the decision to declare the five "missing and presumed deceased" was not taken lightly.

The military said contact was lost with the helicopter while it took part in NATO operations in the Mediterranean. (CBC News)

"While searches on the sea are never easy, these units have completely saturated the area for the duration of the search over a known crash location. So we are certain that if there were survivors, we would have found them within the past 48 hours," he said.

Baines said every effort will be made to identify the remains that were recovered, but that likely won't happen until they are returned to Canada.

The remains are expected to be flown back to Canada next week.

A Royal Canadian Air Force flight safety team was slated to depart on Friday to investigate the accident. It will begin work immediately upon arrival, a department statement said.

Watch | Capt. Kevin Hagen remembered as 'a perfect brother':


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