In just a few weeks, Jack Hogarth, Andrei Honciu, Broden Murphy and Andrés Salek would have celebrated graduating from the Royal Military College, and, the next day, been commissioned as officers.
Instead, their families and the tight-knit RMC community are mourning the fourth-year officer cadets, who died early Friday morning in a “fatal incident” involving a motor vehicle, according to the Department of National Defence.
“The entire RMC community is devastated by this tragic loss,” said Commodore Josée Kurtz, the commandant of the college, in a press conference Friday evening. “As parents ourselves, we can only imagine their pain and we will continue to provide them support in coming days and weeks ahead.”
Few details were released Friday about what happened on the campus located on the Point Frederick peninsula, in Kingston, Ont., where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, but the government department said the incident occurred around 2 a.m. Friday.
It appears a vehicle left the road and entered the water of the St. Lawrence River. A yellow crane was seen lifting a dark green vehicle out of the water.
A spokesperson for the Frontenac Paramedics said four people were treated, but all were declared dead at the scene. Local media have reported that emergency services responded to a call about a motor vehicle that had entered the water.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) is investigating, with assistance from the Kingston Police.
The ages of the four officer cadets were not provided.
Kurtz said the loss of four students, on a small campus of about 1,200 students, will be felt deeply.
“I live here. I see those young people every day,” she said. “It’s tough.”
This summer Hogarth, Honciu and Salek would have begun their training in the army, Hogarth and Salek as armoured officers and Honciu as a logistics officer. Murphy would have become an aerospace environment controller in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Hogarth and Salek were both completing a Bachelor of Arts in military and strategic studies. Honciu and Murphy were completing a Bachelor of Arts in business administration.
“RMC’s first priority is to ensure our naval and officer cadets, staff, faculty, and families are cared for and supported,” the Department of National Defence said. “We extend our deepest condolences to all our members, their families, and their friends during this difficult time.”
Kingston police said its officers were on the scene to help the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, and noted that the investigation was in its infancy.
Several politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford, offered condolences to the families of the four officer cadets.
“The tragic passing of these young Canadians is a devastating loss. To all who knew them: We’re here for you,” Trudeau said in a tweet.
Kingston mayor, Bryan Paterson said he was “absolutely heartbroken” to hear of the tragic loss of four officer cadets early Friday.
“As Mayor of Kingston I want to express my sincere condolences to their families, friends and everyone at RMC.
“We stand with you and offer our full support.”
In a statement, Defence Minister Anita Anand said she offered her “deepest condolences to their families, classmates and loved ones as they grieve such a profound loss, which is felt across our Canadian Armed Forces and country.”
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