OTTAWA—The Canadian Forces were searching for answers Tuesday after an Ontario-based soldier was killed during a parachute-training exercise in Bulgaria.
Bombardier Patrick Labrie, a soldier based out of CFB Petawawa, was confirmed by the Defence Department as having died from injuries sustained on Monday evening near the Bulgarian village of Cheshnegirovo.
A six-year veteran of the Forces originally from Buckingham, Que., Labrie had recently returned from a deployment in Latvia and was in Bulgaria with a larger group of Canadians for the U.S.-led exercise known as Swift Response.
Labrie was a member of the 2nd Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and described by the unit’s commander, Lt.-Col. Dan Matheson, as a “proud gunner” who could “fill a room with his presence.”
Matheson told reporters during a news conference in Petawawa that Labrie was a certified paratrooper who was participating in a jump at night from a Canadian aircraft with Canadian equipment.
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As for how Labrie died, Matheson said: “There is an investigation that’s ongoing. At this time, it’s not concluded so we do not have recommendations or conclusions.”
That investigation is being conducted by military police.
Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier confirmed a second Canadian soldier deployed as part of Swift Response was injured, but it was not during the parachute exercise, which involved a low-level jump at night.
The U.S. military said two American soldiers were also injured during the same jump, but that they had parachuted from a separate plane.
One was treated and released from hospital, said U.S. army spokeswoman Beth Clemons, while the second was admitted for further evaluation.
News of Labrie’s death sparked a wave of condolences from Canada’s political and military leadership, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
“Canadians mourn today with the family and loved ones of the Canadian soldier killed in a training exercise in Bulgaria,” Trudeau said in a Twitter post. “Bombardier Patrick Labrie’s brave service to our country will not be forgotten.”
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“Saddened to learn of the death of a Canadian Armed Forces member in Exercise Swift Response in Bulgaria,” Scheer said in his own Twitter message, adding: “To all members of the CAF, thank you for your service to Canada.”
Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, and Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier similarly expressed their condolences to Labrie’s family and friends.
Canada has about 100 soldiers participating in Swift Response, which involves troops from 10 different countries training together in different scenarios in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, with a particular focus on airborne exercises.
With files from Kristy Kirkup.
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