'An incredible person': Pilot killed in CF-18 crash was engaged to be married
Published Tuesday, November 29, 2016 11:28AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 29, 2016 1:06PM EST
The Canadian Armed Forces has identified the 29-year-old pilot killed in a CF-18 fighter jet crash near Cold Lake, Alta. as Capt. Thomas McQueen from Hamilton, Ont.
Col. Paul Doyle, commander of 4 Wing Cold Lake, said McQueen was an “incredible person” with 10 years of experience in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“His energy and dedication caused him to be recognized as a leader among his peers and he will be and is forever missed,” Doyle told reporters assembled at CFB Cold Lake on Tuesday morning.
Doyle said McQueen was a qualified flight lead with deployment experience in Eastern Europe on Operation Reassurance and had combat flight time in the Middle East on Operation Impact. He added that McQueen was set to begin training in the coming months to become a “four-ship lead,” one of the highest qualifications a member can achieve in the air force.
Doyle said McQueen was engaged to be married “soon” and that his fiancée lives close to the base. McQueen also leaves behind his parents and sister who live in Ontario.
McQueen’s CF-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed inside the Cold Air Weapons Range in Saskatchewan on Monday shortly after 11 a.m. local time during a routine training mission, Doyle said.
Emergency services from 4 Wing, including 417 Combat Support Squadron, quickly responded to the location of the crash and discovered that McQueen had not survived, Doyle said.
“Our primary thoughts are with the loved ones and friends of Capt. McQueen and we’re doing everything we can to support them in the wake of this tragedy,” he added.
Doyle said he knew McQueen personally when he trained him at the 410 Tactical Fighter Operational Training Squadron while he was learning to fly the hornet.
“This is something that as a team we are coming to grips with,” Doyle said.
Lieutenant Col. Joe Mullins, the commanding Officer of the 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron, told the press conference that it was like McQueen’s team lost a member of their family.
Doyle said it was still too early to determine the cause of the crash. The military said a Flight Safety Team has been launched to conduct an investigation into the incident.
“It is early. It is still very raw for us,” Doyle said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on Tuesday expressing his condolences to McQueen’s family.
“This accident is another painful reminder of the dangers that members of the Canadian Armed Forces face every day to ensure the safety and security of our citizens. Their courage, their bravery, and the sacrifices they make represent the very best of what it means to be Canadian,” the statement said. “A proud member of 401 Tactical Fighter Squadron, Captain McQueen lost his life in the line of duty. His sacrifice will be honoured and remembered by all Canadians.”
Canada’s Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan, also issued a statement on Tuesday with his reaction to McQueen’s death.
“It is with profound sadness that I learned yesterday of the death of Captain Thomas McQueen, a CF-18 pilot from the Royal Canadian Air Force, who served his country proudly and bravely,” the statement said. “This is truly a sad time for Canada.”
Gen. Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, also offered his sympathy to McQueen’s family and his comrades at 4 Wing Cold Lake with a written statement.
“Every day, members of the Canadian Armed Forces prepare themselves for the responsibility of shielding their fellow citizens from harm. That training is both rigorous and demanding. It has to be,” the statement said. “Sadly, that training has claimed the life of one of our own.”