UPDATE: One dead in Canadian Forces Snowbirds plane crash in Kamloops

Captain Jenn Casey, from Halifax, NS, has been identified as the fatality in the Snowbirds crash in Kamloops. Photo via http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/
Smoke billows from the site of a CF Snowbirds crash in Kamloops on Sunday, May 17, 2020. (MikeGT79/Twitter)
Smoke and flames billows from the site of a CF Snowbirds crash in Kamloops on Sunday, May 17, 2020. (Jason Foster/Facebook)

One person was killed when a Canadian Forces Snowbird plane crashed in Kamloops Sunday, according to the BC Coroner’s Service.

The Canadian Armed Forces confirmed the news and said the other member on board had serious but not life threatening injuries. He has been identified as Capt. Richard MacDougall.

The CAF identified the victim as Capt. Jennifer Casey of Halifax, Nova Scotia. According to her biography on the Royal Canadian Air Force website, she joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2014 after working as a journalist in Halifax and Belleville. Casey initially worked as a direct entry officer and then as a public affairs officer for Royal Canadian Air Force at 8 Wing Trenton, RCAF’s home base for air mobility. She spent most of 2018 with the CF-18 Demo Team before joining the Snowbirds in November of that year.

Casey is the seventh service member to have lost their life this spring after six Canadian Armed Forces members were killed in a helicopter crash near Greece in April.

On Sunday, two jets took off from Kamloops Airport at about 11:30 a.m., bound for Comox, when one rose, then circled and crashed in the Brocklehurst neighbourhood. Photos show that the jet appeared to crash into a house.

Emergency crews including Kamloops Airport’s aircraft rescue fleet responded to the crash.

“Our number one priority at this time is determining the status of our personnel, the community and supporting emergency personnel, ” the CAF said, noting all next of kin have been notified.

“We are thankful for the ongoing support of emergency crews, including the Kamloops Airport’s aircraft rescue fleet, who are responding to the incident.

Social media images and videos show flames and black smoke in the area of the crash.

Mike Trafford, of Kamloops, said he heard the two jets take off as he was at his home not far from the airport.

“I saw the lower plane do a barrel roll. I saw the pilot eject and the plane took a nosedive,” Trafford told Black Press Media by phone.

Trafford thought he saw the ejected pilot’s parachute open up but believed there were two on board at the time of the crash.

Marni Capostinsky said she lives across the street from the crash site and was out on the deck when she heard the plane getting closer.

“We ran out under the cover to look and saw something black coming towards us, everyone hit the deck it was so loud,” said Capostinsky.

Capostinsky said there were large flames flaring on and off and there was a strong toxic smell in the area.

She says her son immediately ran out with a hose and neighbours tried to help before first responders arrived.

“It was really scary but good to see everyone trying to come together,” said Capostinsky.

Kenny Hinds, who lives in the house seven doors down from the crash site, had been watching the aircraft after hearing them take off, and said he was able to see the crash.

“I heard ‘bang, bang,’ and just as I looked before it left my view from the house beside me, I saw the Snowbird going straight down,” said Hinds. “I saw what looked like a parachute about, say, 20 feet over the house, and it disappeared from sight, and the parachute hadn’t fully deployed yet — it was still sort of straight up and down.”

RCMP confirmed they are on scene but could not provide additional details. Health Minister Adrian Dix said one person was taken to hospital.

The Snowbirds have been flying across Canada since taking off from the Maritimes at the beginning of May. The flight, dubbed Operation Inspiration, reached B.C. this weekend and was supposed to boost morale for Canadians who have spent months in isolation in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Sunday’s flight had already been delayed because of rain and low visibility but the cause of the crash is not yet known.

More to come.

– With files from The Canadian Press


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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