Four military-officer cadets have died at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., where investigators pulled a vehicle from the waters around the campus on Friday.
“We can confirm that four RMC cadets have passed away as a result of this tragic incident,” the Department of National Defence said in a statement released on Friday.
“As the investigation is in its initial stage, no further detail can be provided at this time.”
Local news footage showed the vehicle being recovered from the scene, which is on the Point Frederick peninsula where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River.
The Canadian Armed Forces said in a press release that officers Jack Hogarth, Andrei Honciu, Broden Murphy and Andrés Salek lost their lives in a “fatal incident” that occurred around 2 a.m.
Mr. Hogarth and Mr. Salek were both in military and strategic studies and hoped to become officers in an armoured regiment. Mr. Honciu was studying business administration and planned to be a logistics officer. And Mr. Murphy, also a business administration student, was working to become an aerospace environment controller.
The college has trained Canada’s military leaders for nearly 150 years. Students were finishing exams and just three weeks away from convocation ceremonies scheduled for mid-May.
“I can’t express how saddened I am by this tragedy,” Youri Cormier, an adjunct professor at RMC, said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “It’s a small college. Everyone knows one another very well.”
“Such a deep wound will be difficult to heal,” added Dr. Cormier, the executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.
The investigation is being handled by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, with help from the Kingston Police and the Ontario Provincial Police.
Over the years, other officer cadets have died in the waters around the campus. Joseph Grozelle, 21, disappeared from his dorm room weeks before his body was discovered in a nearby river in 2003.
RMC officer cadet Anthony Bowie drowned at the age of 18 during an obstacle course in September, 1972.
On Friday, several politicians posted statements on Twitter about the tragedy at RMC.
Defence Minister Anita Anand wrote that she is “heartbroken” by “such a profound loss, which is felt across our Canadian Armed Forces and country.”
Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, a graduate of the school, said the deaths are “terribly sad news from the Royal Military College, where exceptional young Canadians go to serve.”
The Department of National Defence said details may take days to determine because the military college’s “first priority is to ensure our naval and officer cadets, staff, faculty, and families are cared for and supported.”
– With a file from Emerald Bensadoun
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