A naval warfare officer originally from Truro, N.S., is among five military members missing after their helicopter crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.
Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke was one of six Canadians aboard a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter when it went down Wednesday into international waters between Greece and Italy.
Sub.-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a marine systems engineering officer, is the first known casualty of the crash.
The other four missing members are:
- Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, pilot, originally from New Glasgow, N.S.
- Capt. Kevin Hagen, pilot, originally from Nanaimo, B.C.
- Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, air combat systems officer, originally from Trois-Rivières, Que.
- Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, airborne electronic sensor operator, originally from Guelph, Ont.
Pyke, 34, loved his job and cared deeply about others, said his distant cousin Lynette Casey.
“He had the biggest heart of anybody that I know,” said Casey. “He had this smile that it wouldn’t matter what kind of mood you’re in, if he smiled and you saw him, it would just make you smile.”
Casey said that while she and Pyke were related, she only really got to know him in the last decade or so. The two volunteered together at the Rawdon District Volunteer Fire Department, and Pyke also volunteered for the fire department in nearby Gore.
He was missed by the departments after he got into the navy a couple of years ago — a job he loved, said Casey.
She recalled seeing him for the first time after he began working for the Canadian Armed Forces.
“There was something different about him. He seemed happier,” she said. “It was like he was finally doing something he wanted to do and really wanted to do.”
Casey learned early Thursday morning that Pyke was on the helicopter. What proceeded, she said, was “a very emotional day.”
“I just didn’t want to believe it, I guess that’s how my morning started,” she said. “And then it was like everything I was seeing, I kept thinking, ‘No, this can’t be real.'”
If she could see Pyke again, Casey said, “I’d give him a big hug, that’s for sure.”
She said Nova Scotia has already seen its fair share of tragedy in recent weeks, after 22 people were killed by a gunman last month.
‘He was always smiling,’ says uncle
Rodney Hart, who married Pyke’s aunt nearly 20 years ago, described Pyke as an “infectious person” with a good sense of humour and a caring disposition.
“Once you met him, you automatically became his family. He would help anybody, do anything for anybody, nothing too big or too small,” he said.
“He was always smiling. He’d make everybody laugh. … There were times he was funny, there were times he was downright hilarious.”
Hart said his thoughts are with the other families affected by the tragedy.
“I feel bad for them all,” he said. “There’s five of them right now that nobody knows where they’re at or anything, so I can just imagine what they’re going through.”
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