Cars lined Highway 102 as far as the eye could see on Monday evening as a motorcade escorted the body of Sub.-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough home.
The 23-year-old was one of six people killed when a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter assigned to HMCS Fredericton crashed into the Ionian Sea off the coast of Greece on April 29.
The hearse passed the overpass at Exit 5A just before 7 p.m., led by police with flashing lights and followed by hundreds of motorcycles, the growl of their engines filling the air as Canadian Armed Forces members, police and firefighters saluted from the rail.
Master Cpl. Kyle Lucas was one of the army members who came to pay his respects.
“It means a great deal to see the community and to see soldiers out to pay their respects and be here in this sad time,” Lucas said. “And show their appreciation for the Canadian Armed Forces and our military as a whole.”
The procession started at the airport, where Cowbrough's body returned to Nova Scotia after a repatriation ceremony held on Wednesday at CFB Trenton. It was to continue down the Highway of Heroes, as the route became known after the bodies of Canadian soldiers slain in overseas conflict in the fight against terrorism followed the same path upon their return home.
It then proceeded through metro Halifax to conclude at the Atlantic Funeral Home in Westphal. Cars, military members, trucks and people gathered along the way.
Air Force 2nd Lt. Josh Vining said it was a showing of unity.
“We're all a family, the military, and we got to be there for each other through the good times and the bad,” the first-year CAF member said. “And, unfortunately, this is a sad time for the person who lost her life and her family and the rest of us. I just came out here for support.”
Cowbrough was a marine systems engineering officer, and hers was the only body recovered in the immediate aftermath of the crash.
Officials have identified partial remains recovered in the days that followed as that of Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, one of two pilots of the helicopter. The others, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke, originally from Truro; Capt. Kevin Hagen, originally from Nanaimo, B.C.; Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin, from Trois-Rivières, Qué.; and Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, originally from Guelph, Ont., are all officially considered missing and presumed dead.
Joan Plume was waiting in her family's vehicle along the highway's inbound on-ramp as the procession passed. She said with all Nova Scotians have been through in a short period of time, it means a lot to show our respects.
“She's from Nova Scotia, so … with everything that's happening in Nova Scotia now, it's just another way that we feel that we can acknowledge with our flags how much we are strong and we hope that the rest of Nova Scotia is – and we know they are,” Plume said.
“It just kind of hits you hard.”
The helicopter crashed as it was returning to the Canadian frigate during a routine training mission. The cause is still under investigation. Officials have said it could take more than a year.