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 at Kamloops, killing one member and injuring another.
The Snowbirds jet crashed shortly after takeoff and burst into flames in the front yard of a house.
Capt. Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died in the crash
The pilot of the CT-114 Tutor aircraft, Capt. Richard MacDougall, sustained serious injuries in the crash, but they are not considered life-threatening.
Capt. Casey is from Halifax and joined Canada’s Armed Forces in 2014 after several years working as a journalist, according to her biography on the Royal Canadian Air Force website.
The crash happened before noon PT, shortly after the jet took off from the Kamloops Airport. Witnesses say it was following another jet when it appeared to veer upward and circle the tarmac before going into a nosedive.
“Canadians look at the Snowbirds as a source of joy and an exhibition of the incredible feats that our people in uniform are capable of,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement Sunday evening.
“Operation Inspiration was intended to lift the spirit of Canadians at this difficult time and the Snowbirds accomplished their mission. I know that all Canadians grieve this tragic loss.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “deeply saddened” and that his thoughts are with the families of Capt. Casey and Capt. MacDougall, and the entire Snowbirds team. He thanked emergency crews in Kamloops for responding quickly.
“For the past two weeks, the Snowbirds have been flying across the country to lift up Canadians during these difficult times,” Trudeau said.
“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.
Governor General Julie Payette said she was devastated by Capt. Casey’s death, and paid tribute to the Snowbirds.
“During a difficult time for our country, they were a source of hope, travelling across Canada away from their families, for us,” Payette said in a statement.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian described the crash as a “tragic scene.”
“This accident today really shakes us to our core, but we will do our best to support the military and the men and women in service,” Christian said during a media briefing Sunday afternoon