The Canadian Forces Snowbirds’ cross-country tour to raise people’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic turned to tragedy Sunday when one of its planes plunged into the ground in Kamloops, B.C., killing one member and injuring another.
The Snowbirds were on their way to Comox as part of Operation Inspiration, a tour across the nation to salute frontline workers battling COVID-19.
At approximately 11:50 a.m., two Snowbirds took off the Kamloops Airport runway, but less than a minute later, one of the jets veered up to the left, spiralled out of control and crashed out of sight behind the tree line.
Capt. Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died in the crash, the Canadian Armed Forces said in a statement.
The pilot of the CT-114 Tutor aircraft, Capt. Richard MacDougall, sustained serious injuries in the crash, but they are not considered life-threatening.
Casey is a graduate of Royal Roads University according to the air force’s website.
Video shows two puffs of black smoke coming from the plane and appears to show at least one person ejecting from the jet shortly before it hit the ground in a residential area near Glenview Avenue and Schreiner Street.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the fatal Canadian Armed Forces aircraft crash, saying he was “deeply saddened” by the events in Kamloops.
“Our thoughts are with the families of Captain Casey and Captain MacDougall, as well as the entire Canadian Forces Snowbirds team, as they grieve this terrible loss. I would also like to thank the emergency personnel in Kamloops who responded so quickly to this tragic incident,” Trudeau said.
“For the past two weeks, the Snowbirds have been flying across the country to lift up Canadians during these difficult times. Every day, they represent the very best of Canada and demonstrate excellence through incredible skill and dedication. Their flyovers across the country put a smile on the faces of Canadians everywhere and make us proud.”
Ian Shaw-Maclaren was at the airport to take photos of the takeoff when the jet went down.
“I don’t think its something you ever want to see,” said Shaw-Maclaren. “I was hoping to get a good shot of them taking off today, but the ones I got weren’t the ones I wanted.”
He said he was shaken after the event, watching in disbelief.
“I sort of just set my camera down, looked at the guy beside me and asked him ‘did that really just happen?’ We just kind of stood there, like more numb than anything,” the witness said.