KAMLOOPS, B.C. CANADA – A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Canadair CT-114 Tutor from the Snowbirds Demonstration Team has crashed on Sunday, killing one crew member. The jet crashed in a residential area in Kamloops, British Columbia – about 155 miles northeast of Vancouver in Canada. The crash occured during a tour across the country – “Operation Inspiration”, intended to “salute Canadians doing their part to fight the spread of COVID-19.” Public Affairs Officer for the Snowbirds Captain Jennifer Casey died in the crash, while the pilot sustained serious injuries, Global News reports. The elderly residents inside the house hit by the Snowbird jet, are fortunately uninjured, but their home was unfortunately destroyed by the impact of the jet.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that one member of the CF Snowbirds team has died and one has sustained serious injuries,” the Royal Canadian Air Force said.
“We can confirm that we have contacted all primary family members of those involved. More information will be communicated in the near future.”
Capt. Jennifer Casey – the team’s Public Affairs Officer – is from Halifax, according to her Canadian Forces biography.
Casey joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 2014, and the Snowbirds in 2018. Prior to that, she worked as a radio reporter, anchor and producer.
“Jenn was a delight to be around, solid in her work, and had such an infectiously upbeat and genuine way about her,” former colleague Scott Simpson at Halifax’s News 95.7, said in a Facebook post.
“We could all see the pride she expressed in her work with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds as Captain Jenn Casey.
“I don’t know her family, but my thoughts go out to them, and everyone else who knew and loved Jenn.”
The other victim was identified by the CAF as Captain Richard MacDougall. His injuries were considered non-life-threatening, the CAF said in a tweet Sunday night.
In a statement by the CAF on Sunday night, Capt. Richard MacDougall is listed as the pilot of the jet and one of the team’s coordinators.
What caused the Snowbirds jet to crash remains unclear at this time.
“Tonight, I join all Canadians in mourning the loss of a member of The Snowbirds team, Captain Jennifer Casey. I’m sending my deepest condolences to her loved ones, and wishing Captain Richard MacDougall a full recovery. All Canadians are with you during this difficult time,” Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.
Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette said she is “devastated” by the news.
“To the Royal Canadian Air Force, the military Public Affairs Branch, and the entire Canadian Armed Forces community, Canada stands with you today and in the days to come. You are in our hearts.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a statement Sunday night, that he was “deeply saddened” by the crash, and that his thoughts were with all those who were involved.
“I know that all Canadians grieve this tragic loss,” Sajjan said.
The RCAF Snowbirds – officially known as 431 Air Demonstration Squadron – are the flight demonstration team of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). The Snowbirds are based at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The Snowbirds’ official purpose is to “demonstrate the skill, professionalism, and teamwork of Canadian Forces personnel.” The Snowbirds are the first Canadian air demonstration team to be designated as a squadron.
The team flies with the Canadair CT-114 Tutor, a standard jet trainer for the RCAF between the early 1960s and 2000, designed and produced by Canadian aircraft manufacturer Canadair. The team flies with 11 jets, of which 9 are for aerobatic performances (including 2 solo aircraft) and 2 spare aircraft – flown by the team coordinators.
Approximately 80 Canadian Forces personnel work with the squadron full-time – 24 personnel are in the show team that travels during the airshow season. The Snowbirds are the only major military aerobatics team that operates without a support aircraft.
The Snowbirds continue the flying demonstration tradition of previous Canadian Air Force aerobatic teams, which include The Siskins, The Blue Devils, The Golden Hawks, and The Golden Centennaires.
The Snowbirds have been involved in several accidents since June 1972, resulting in the deaths of 8 pilots and 2 passengers and the loss of several aircraft. The RCAF commented: “…there is risk associated with formation flying. Flying by its very nature has an inherent element of risk. Eight Snowbird pilots have lost their lives in the performance of their duty. We remember them.”