Pilot dies in CF-18 crash near Cold Lake, Alta.

A CF-18 pilot died Monday when a fighter jet crashed just after 11 a.m. near Cold Lake, Alta.

Emergency services securing scene as investigation into cause of crash begins

A CF-18 fighter jet, like the one pictured here, crashed near Cold Lake, Alta., Monday, killing the pilot. (Cpl. J.F. Lauzé/4 Wing Imaging Section)

A CF-18 pilot died Monday when a fighter jet crashed near Cold Lake, Alta.

The CF-18 from 4 Wing Cold Lake went down just after 11 a.m. local time on the Saskatchewan side of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range, said Capt. Mat Strong, public affairs officer with 4 Wing Cold Lake.

Emergency services were securing the scene, and a flight safety investigation will be conducted to determine the cause of the crash, Strong said.

Officials declined to provide further details on the identity of the pilot, saying they were still in the process of notifying next of kin. 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said his immediate focus is on the victim's family.

"It's too preliminary to make any type of judgments and conclusions," Sajjan told reporters in Ottawa not long after the crash was first reported. "The best thing we can do right now is to give the air force and the Canadian Armed Forces the space to be able to do the necessary work and — and then we'll have more to say about that."

This is a tragic day. Somebody has lost a loved one today, and everybody will rally around the family to make sure we can all help them out.- Craig Copeland, Mayor of Cold Lake

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said he heard about the crash Monday while participating in a learning session with schoolchildren.

The dangers of training in the Canadian Forces are a familiar reality in the city of 16,000, he said.

"These men and women, the pilots, Armed Forces, do a tremendous job," Copeland said. "They're training every day up in the air, and you don't want to see a pilot's life lost.

"But they sacrifice their life to protect Canada, and this is a tragic day. Somebody has lost a loved one today, and everybody will rally around the family to make sure we can all help them out."

Former fighter pilot and Conservative MP Laurie Hawn said the CF-18 is an "extremely safe airplane."

In an interview with CBC News, Hawn said pilots train to mimic combat situations as "realistically as possible."

"You should read absolutely nothing into this," Hawn said of the crash.

"The F-18 has a lot of ... life left. Obviously we have no idea what happened yet, so any conjecture would be way off base."

A total of 19 CF-18 Hornets have crashed since the RCAF acquired the fleet of aircraft in 1982, said David Lavallee, public affairs officer for 1 Canadian Air Division and Canadian NORAD Region Headquarters.

Cold Lake is about 290 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.