Canadian soldier killed during parachuting training exercise in Bulgaria

Canadian soldier killed during parachuting training exercise in Bulgaria

A Canadian soldier has died of injuries sustained during parachuting while taking part in a multinational training exercise in Bulgaria.

Bombardier Patrick Labrie was a member of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery based at Petawawa, Ont. He went to high school in Gatineau, Que.

Labrie was taking part in Exercise Swift Response 19, which is running from June 8 to 27 in various locations in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. The U.S.-led joint multinational airborne field training exercise is working to advance interoperability of NATO allies and test the military alliance's ability to deploy into Eastern Europe at a moment's notice.

It's an air-heavy exercise that involves a lot of paratroopers, aircraft and helicopters.

The accident occurred around 10 p.m. ET Monday in Cheshnegirovo, which was the middle of the night local time.

A spokesman for the Forces said Labrie was a certified jumper who recently had completed recertification for physical training, although the spokesman could not say how many jumps Labrie had completed in his military career.

His death was confirmed this morning by Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff. 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan extended sympathies to the paratrooper's family and comrades.

"Next of kin has been informed and we want to pass on our deep condolences, not only to the family, but to all the members who served with Bombardier Labrie," he said.

"As you know, any time there's an accident like this, an independent investigation will be launched."

Sources at the Department of National Defence told CBC that Labrie was one of 100 Canadian soldiers taking part in the annual exercise. He was not part of a nation-to-nation exchange and was under Canadian command at the time of his death.

The fatal jump was from a Canadian aircraft — a static line jump from a height of about 400 metres.

All Canadian static line jumps in this exercise have been suspended while the investigation takes place.

Two U.S. soldiers were injured in the same incident. A second Canadian taking part in the exercise was injured, but it was not related to the same jump.

There will be a Canadian board of inquiry into the accident.

Labrie's death 'a painful loss'

CAF confirmed a Canadian Military Police investigation has started, but no further details were available.

Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier, commander of the Canadian Army, said in a statement that he is "deeply saddened" by the loss.

"Not only is his death a painful loss to his family and friends, but we feel this loss across the Canadian Army and throughout the entire military community," he said. "Chief Warrant Officer Stu Hartnell and I extend our sincere condolences, on behalf of all ranks of the Canadian Army, to the family and friends of Bombardier Labrie."

National Defence public affairs told CBC that Labrie enrolled in the CAF in August 2013 as an artillery soldier.

"The death of Patrick Labrie is a tragic event and this loss is felt across the entire military community. For now, we will use every single means available to ensure his family have the support they need," said a statement.

"Due to privacy issues and to the ongoing investigation, we will not go into any further details regarding the circumstances surrounding the nature and event of his death. For now, our priority is to support the family and colleagues of Bombardier Labrie during these difficult moments."

Messages of grief and sympathy spread on social media.

"Canadians mourn today with the family and loved ones of the Canadian soldier killed in a training exercise in Bulgaria yesterday," tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Bombardier Patrick Labrie's brave service to our country will not be forgotten."

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer tweeted that he was saddened to learn of the death.

"On behalf of Canada's Conservatives, Jill and I extend our condolences to their family and loved ones. To all members of the CAF, thank you for your service to Canada," he said.