Kingston grieves loss of 4 Royal Military College cadets

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says his community is feeling a combination of shock and grief over the loss of four Royal Military College cadets who died after their vehicle went into the water on campus early Friday.

The fourth-year cadets were identified as Jack Hogarth, Andrei Honciu, Broden Murphy and Andrés Salek by RMC Commanding Officer Commodore Josée Kurtz.

“They come from across the country but when they’re here, they’re as much a part of the Kingston community as anyone else,” Paterson said. “We’re grieving that loss for sure.”

Paterson, who is an assistant professor at RMC, said two of the cadets were in one of his classes several years ago, but he didn’t know them well. He declined to name them.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, shown during a news conference on March 1, 2021, says his heart breaks for the families, friends and fellow cadets. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

He said he expects there to be a funeral but did not have details, saying the college would likely lead it. He said he has offered the city’s full support, and his heart breaks for the families, friends and fellow cadets.

“This is a time for us to pull together, to stand together with the entire RMC community and with everyone that’s facing a difficult time right now.”

Former teacher not surprised cadet decided to serve country

The cadets were weeks away from completing their bachelor of arts degrees. Hogarth and Salek were studying military and strategic studies and planned to become armoured officers in the army.

Honciu was studying business administration and was set to become a logistics officer, and Murphy was specializing in business administration with intentions of becoming an aerospace environment controller in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Honciu is being remembered by a former high school teacher as someone fairly quiet and shy, but also happy and full of energy.

From left to right, Officer Cadets Jack Hogarth, Andrei Honciu, Broden Murphy and Andrés Salek were identified as the victims in an incident on the Royal Military College campus in Kingston on Friday. (Department of National Defence)

“He always had a smile on his face and made everyone laugh,” said Richard Oki, who taught Honciu math in Grade 9 and Grade 10 at Northern Secondary School in Toronto.

“It was obvious early on in Grade 9 math that Andrei was an amazing student,” said Oki, who added he hoped Honciu would pursue engineering post-secondary. “His work was always impeccable, and he was very smart, not only in math, but in many subject areas. So he stood out in the class right away.”

Oki said he was devastated by the news, especially given that Honciu was only weeks from graduation. Along with being strong academically, he was a leader on the school’s soccer team.

“It does not surprise me that he had the courage and bravery to represent our country,” Oki said.

‘Everybody’s feeling down and out’: Queen’s student

Tyson Rudolph, a first-year student at Queen’s University, didn’t know any of the cadets, but knows other students attending RMC. 

“Everybody’s feeling down and out,” he said. “It’s really sad to hear.” 

Kingston resident Doreen Vroegop said she was “in shock” when she heard the news.

“It just broke my heart to hear that these young kids, who worked so hard to get where they’re at and their life’s just starting out … they’re just taken away.”  

The incident happened shortly after 2 a.m. Friday at Point Frederick, a peninsula at Canadian Forces Base Kingston that sits between Kingston Harbour and Navy Bay on the St. Lawrence River. An investigation is underway by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the independent arm of the Canadian Forces Military Police.

Few details have been released publicly, with officials citing the investigation, and several members of RMC have declined to speak.

Rory Fowler, a military lawyer and a retired lieutenant-colonel, said there tends to be a closing of the ranks when an incident garners media attention.

“The only way you’re going to find out … details about a military police investigation is, in fact, if charges are laid.” 

Fowler expects the initial investigation to take weeks. A more indepth one, called a board of inquiry, would likely take months, he said.

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