One person was killed Sunday when their Tutor CT-114 crashed just after takeoff from the Kamloops Airport.
Investigators have arrived in Kamloops, British Columbia to start to piece together why a Snowbird CT-114 Tutor crashed shortly after takeoff late Sunday morning.
Meantime, tributes are pouring in for Captain Jenn Casey, the Squadron’s Public Affairs Officer, who was killed in the crash.
“The team is devastated by the loss of Jenn. She was the quintessential Public Affairs Officer,” said Lieutenant-Commander Mike French, the Squadron’s commanding officer in a statement released Monday. “A tireless and energetic officer with a network of media contacts from her previous media career and savvy with social media which endeared her to the public.”
Private pilots in the Vancouver area, some 30 in all, staged a flypast over the Vancouver Harbour to pay tribute to first responders and the Snowbirds.
Dubbed “Operation Backup Inspiration,” more than a dozen private aircraft left Abbotsford International just after 6:30 for an hour-long procession over Canada’s third-largest metropolitan area, including the province’s largest hospitals.
The Snowbirds were on a cross-Canada tour dubbed Operation Inspiration meant to bolster spirits during the pandemic. They were in Kamloops for a flypast Saturday, and were set to reposition to Vancouver Island when the crash happened.
“[Casey] absolutely loved what she did; she was one of the main reasons Op INSPIRATION has been so well received by the public,” said French. “She had just received a 1 Canadian Air Division Commander’s coin in recognition of her stellar efforts and a nomination was being drafted for a Chief of the Defence Staff commendation.”
The Snowbirds’ tour has been put on hold while the team mourns, regroups, and plans their next steps.
The pilot, Captain Richard MacDougall, was seriously injured in the crash, though he is expected to recover.
“I’ve spoken to him, and assured him he has the full support of the Team and the Canadian Armed Forces while he too goes through this difficult time,” said French.
Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police secured the crash site overnight – the plane went down in a residential area – while investigators from the Directorate of Flight Safety were dispatched from Ottawa overnight.
The military investigates its own crashes, using a process similar to one used by the civilian Transportation Safety Board to understand the causes of a crash. That includes interviewing witnesses, reviewing maintenance records, and looking for any mechanical or human factors that may have contributed to the crash.
The Directorate already has an open investigation involving a Snowbird Tutor that crashed last year enroute to an air show in Georgia.
In that case, a plane was destroyed when the pilot lost power after applying full throttle. He safely ejected.
On Sunday, video showed the Snowbird climbed after takeoff, climbed quickly, rolled, then pitched down when the two occupants ejected and Casey was killed.
“We will share our hearts with Canadians tomorrow;” said French, “the team members need this time to be together and to mourn in private.”