Ottawa

Friends, family remember Canadian soldier killed in overseas training exercise

The funeral of a Canadian soldier who died in a parachute accident in Bulgaria took place at the Saint-Grégoire de Nazianze Church in Gatineau Saturday.

Patrick Labrie died while parachuting in Bulgaria

The funeral for a Canadian soldier that died during a training exercise in Bulgaria took place on July 6, 2019. (Yasmine Mehdi/Radio-Canada)

A Canadian soldier who died in a parachute accident in Bulgaria last month was remembered as a "gifted soldier" at his funeral.

Bombardier Patrick Labrie died during a low-altitude training jump on June 17. His body arrived days later at the Ottawa airport. His funeral was held at the Saint-Grégoire de Nazianze Church in Gatineau, Que., on Saturday.

Labrie had been with the Canadian Armed Forces for six years and was based out of Petawawa, Ont.

Bombardier Patrick Labrie was killed during a parachute training exercise in Bulgaria. (Department of National Defence)

Roads were closed as a military procession brought Labrie's body from the Royal Canadian Legion on Joseph Street to the church.

Dozens of people gathered at the funeral around 11 a.m. to pay a final tribute to the 28-year-old Buckingham, Que., native. Twelve soldiers carried out a ceremonial gun salute with 36 blank rounds.

'Tremendous loss'

"We had a tremendous amount of respect for him," said Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Matheson who served with Labrie.

"He was trustworthy and and he was [an] inspiration to his peers and a person that they would like to emulate as they move through their careers."

Lieutenant-Colonel Dan Matheson says Bombardier Patrick Labrie was a "tremendously gifted soldier." (Radio-Canada)

Labrie's loss is still being felt among his fellow soldiers, Matheson said.

"The regiment is still in a lot of pain. I fully admit, it's just reverberating through," he said. "He meant so much to so many. He had groups of friends that transcended cliques and groups that would ordinarily not hang out together."

"He was that kind of guy, he brought people together and that's what made him such a great leader and such a tremendous loss for us."

Some friends travelled from overseas to attend Labrie's funeral.

Patrick Bidale says he and his wife Patricia travelled from France to support Labrie's parents. (Radio Canada)

"He was a friendly and passionate young man," said Patrick Bidale, a family friend from France.

"What we saw today is something you would see on television... it's very hard," said Bidale through tears.  

At the time of his death, Labrie was taking part in Exercise Swift Response 19, which happened from June 8 to 27 in various locations in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania.

He was part of a contingent of about 100 Canadians who were participating in the U.S.-led training exercise.

The military is continuing to investigate Labrie's death and what went wrong during the training jump.

With files from La Presse Canadienne and Radio-Canada