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Canadian aerobatic crew member killed as plane crashes in residential street during display

One crew member was killed in the crash while another was seriously injured. A house was also set on fire.

Canadian Forces Snowbird captains Erik Temple and Joel Wilson check out the crash scene.
Canadian Forces Snowbird captains Erik Temple and Joel Wilson check out the crash scene.
Image: PA Images

A CANADIAN AEROBATIC jet crashed into a British Columbia neighbourhood yesterday during a flyover intended to boost morale during the pandemic.

One crew member was killed in the crash while another was seriously injured. A house was also set on fire.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Captain Jennifer Casey, who served as a spokeswoman for the Snowbirds aerobatic team, and the injuring of Captain Richard MacDougall, one of the team’s coordinators and pilot of the aircraft who survived landing on the roof of a house.

“For the past two weeks, the Snowbirds have been flying across the country to lift up Canadians during these difficult times,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“Their flyovers across the country put a smile on the faces of Canadians everywhere and make us proud.”

The morale boosting mission is now on indefinite hold and the fleet of Tutor jets has been placed on operational pause.

Video appeared to show at least one person ejecting.

“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 in a tweet.

Canada’s defence department said emergency crews were responding to the crash at the airport in the city of Kamloops in British Columbia.

Rose Miller lives directly across the street from where the plane hit. She watched the Snowbirds arrive on Saturday and went to her front window when she heard the roar of jet engines.

Miller said she heard a loud bang and wondered whether it might be a sonic boom. Then she watched the plane smash onto the ground.

“It looked to me like it was mostly on the road, but it just exploded. It went everywhere,” she said.

In fact, I got a big, huge piece in my backyard. The cops said it was the ejection seat.

Ms Miller said a couple in their early 70s lives in the home. Both are OK, she said, noting that she had spoken with them after they were evacuated to a nearby street.

The woman had been in the basement while the man was behind the house.

Video posted to Twitter appears to show two Snowbirds taking off from what is believed to have been Kamloops Airport.

One of the aircraft subsequently climbed into the sky before rolling over and plunging to the ground.

The video appears to show at least one person ejecting from the plane before it disappears behind a stand of trees and an explosion is heard.

canada-air-force-crash Captain Jennifer Casey who was killed in the crash. Source: PA Images

“Our number one priority at this time is determining the status of our personnel, the community and supporting emergency personnel. When appropriate, more information will be made available,” the Department of National Defence said in a statement.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

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Kenny Hinds, who lives in a house seven doors down from the crash site, said it looked like the living room of the house where the crash occurred was on fire.

I just started running down the street. And I got there maybe a minute after it crashed and there was a couple of residents that had their hoses out and they were trying to put the flames out because it hit a house.

“It looked like most of it landed in the front yard, but maybe a wing or something went through the roof perhaps.”

Operation Inspiration

Operation Inspiration started in Nova Scotia earlier this month and features the Snowbirds team’s signature nine-jet formation. It was aimed at boosting morale amid the pandemic.

Yesterday’s crash follows the downing of another Snowbird in the US state of Georgia last October, where the team was scheduled to perform in an air show.

Captain Kevin Domon-Grenier sustained minor injuries when he ejected from the plane, which crashed into a farmer’s field. No one else was hurt.

The Snowbirds have performed at airshows across Canada and the US for decades and are considered a key tool for raising awareness about — and recruiting for — the air force.

Eleven aircraft are used during shows, with nine flying and two kept as spares.

Prior to Sunday’s crash, seven pilots and one passenger had been killed and several aircraft had been lost over the course of the Snowbirds’ history.

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