Canadian military knew in 2016 Snowbirds ejection seats needed upgrading but project still only in early stages

News from The Chronicle Herald – link to story and update

David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, Postmedia News | Published: 15 June 2020

Captain Jenn Casey, the public affairs officer with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic team, died on May 17 after the Snowbirds aircraft she was a passenger in crashed in Kamloops, B.C.
Captain Jenn Casey, the public affairs officer with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic team, died on May 17 after the Snowbirds aircraft she was a passenger in crashed in Kamloops, B.C.

A A

The Canadian military knew in 2016 the ejection seat on Snowbirds aircraft needed to be upgraded but it is still only in the early stages of modernizing that system.

The Royal Canadian Air Force has now started a project to upgrade the parachutes on the ejection seats, the Canadian military confirmed to this newspaper.

Capt. Jennifer Casey, the public affairs officer with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerobatic team, died on May 17 after the Snowbirds aircraft she was a passenger in crashed in Kamloops, B.C. Video of the incident appears to show Casey and Capt. Richard MacDougall, the pilot of the CT-114 Tutor aircraft, eject from the plane shortly before it slammed into the ground. MacDougall survived with serious injuries.

A Canadian Forces flight safety team has focused its investigation into the crash on a possible bird strike as well as on the performance of the aircraft’s escape system, the team noted in a statement.

Issues with the ejection seat system on board the CT-114 aircraft were identified in 2015. Canadian Forces tests evaluating the performance of the system were finished in 2016, the military confirmed.

“Based on those results, it was determined that the most effective way to improve the system would be through a parachute upgrade program, which will identify and assess candidate canopy designs, perform testing for airworthiness clearance, and eventually implement a new parachute system in the CT114,” the Canadian Forces noted in an email. “We are still very early in the project.”

No information was provided on when the upgrade would be completed or how much it would cost. Military sources say the cost is relatively minor.

No explanation was provided about why action on the parachute upgrade was not started when the problem was identified four years ago.

A witness at the crash scene claimed that Casey’s parachute did not open.

The Canadian Forces noted in its email to this newspaper that since the flight safety investigation was underway it would not be appropriate to comment any further.

Currently, the CT-114 Tutors use a Weber CL-41 ejection seat.  The Tutor has two ejection seats that are “individually activated”, which means that each seat is ejected when its handgrip is pulled, the Canadian Forces noted. The seats were upgraded in 2003 in order to improve the seat and occupant separation during ejection, the military added.

Casey was with the Snowbirds since 2018. She joined the Canadian Armed Forces in August 2014 as a direct entry officer. Prior to joining she spent several years working in broadcast radio as a reporter, anchor, and producer in both Halifax and Belleville, Ont.

MacDougall landed on a roof after ejecting from the aircraft. Images on social media show two men helping the pilot laying on a roof. There is a parachute visible. Kamloops firefighters used a ladder truck to get the pilot down and he was taken to hospital.

The Snowbirds flew over Kamloops the day before the crash as part of Operation Inspiration which had the Canadian Forces team doing flyovers over communities to boost morale during the new coronavirus pandemic.

MacDougall and Casey took off from Kamloops on May 17 and had planned to fly to Comox, B.C. Two Snowbirds aircraft took off from Kamloops Airport at the same time that day and the plane being flown by MacDougall climbed steeply and then went into a dive, video of the incident shows.

The CT-114 Tutor fleet has been placed on an operational pause and Operation Inspiration has been delayed indefinitely, according to the military.

Last year the aerobatic team was temporarily grounded by the Royal Canadian Air Force after a crash of one of its aircraft near Atlanta, Georgia. The crash happened on Oct. 13. Snowbird pilot Capt. Kevin Domon-Grenier was forced to eject from his Tutor aircraft shortly before the team’s performance in Atlanta, the team stated at the time. Domon-Grenier suffered minor injuries and was taken to hospital as a precaution following the ejection.  The Tutor jet crashed into a farmer’s field and there were no injuries on the ground.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Bird strike may have caused fatal Snowbirds plane crash, preliminary investigation finds

News from The Globe and Mail – link to story

OTTAWA, THE CANADIAN PRESS, PUBLISHED JUNE 1, 2020

A preliminary investigation report says a close look at video footage of the Tutor jet just before the crash showed a bird very close to the plane’s right engine intake ‘during the critical phase of take-off.’HANDOUT

The Royal Canadian Air Force says it’s focusing on a bird strike as the reason a Snowbird plane crashed in British Columbia last month.

A preliminary investigation report posted today says a close look at video footage of the plane just before the crash showed a bird very close to the plane’s right engine intake “during the critical phase of take-off.”

The crash near Kamloops killed air force Capt. Jenn Casey, a public-affairs officer riding as a passenger, and seriously injured the pilot.

Though the plane crashed in a populated area, nobody on the ground was badly injured.

The Snowbirds were on a cross-country tour at the time of the crash, performing over cities and towns to try to raise morale a little amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The air force’s report says the investigation will continue to probe the possibility of a bird strike and whether the Tutor jet’s escape devices worked properly.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Memorial honouring Snowbirds in Kamloops, B.C., to be taken down and preserved

News from CBC News – link to story

Items to be distributed among Snowbirds, Capt. Jenn Casey’s family and Capt. Richard MacDougall

Courtney Dickson · CBC News · Posted: May 27, 2020

Kamloops residents have been adding to a memorial set up for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds since one of its jets crashed in the city on May 17. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

The memorial set up by Kamloops, B.C., residents honouring the victims of a fatal Snowbirds plane crash in the city on the Victoria Day long weekend will be taken down Friday. 

Capt. Jenn Casey was killed May 17 when the jet she was travelling in went down shortly after take off from the Kamloops airport. Capt. Richard MacDougall, who was also in the plane but managed to successfully eject, was sent to hospital with injuries but is now home in Moose Jaw, Sask., and is expected to make a full recovery.

The Snowbirds were in Kamloops as part of a cross-country tour called Operation Inspiration, meant to salute Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After the crash, hundreds of flowers, hearts, art and messages of condolences were attached to the fence along the airport as residents turned out to pay their respects to Casey, MacDougall and the Snowbirds. 

Condolences and messages of support line the fence along the Kamloops Airport, following a fatal Canadian Forces Snowbirds crash on May 17 that killed Capt. Jenn Casey. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

The City of Kamloops, the Kamloops Airport and Rocky Mountain Rangers will work collaboratively to remove the memorial. Eventually, items will be divided up among the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Casey’s family and MacDougall.

“The idea had been floated around last week to try to preserve it,” Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer with 19 Wing Comox, told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. 

Kamloops residents have until Friday to visit the memorial set up by the airport to honour Capt. Jenn Casey and Capt. Richard MacDougall. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

“We did want to have that memorial up for as long as possible but then because of the inclement weather, if we want to preserve anything we’ll have to take it down.”

Rain has already damaged parts of the memorial. 

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds jets remain grounded at the Kamloops airport. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

Hejduk visited the memorial when she was in Kamloops last week following the crash and was surprised by the outpouring of support from the community.

“To see that come so spontaneously together in such an organic way was astounding,” she said.

“There are so many heartfelt messages and messages of support … and we wanted to try to capture that and preserve it going forward and so that it is there for all time.”

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

Moose Jaw, Sask., welcomes back Canadian Forces Snowbirds team following fatal crash in Kamloops

News from Global News – link to story and VIDEO

BY JONATHAN GUIGNARD GLOBAL NEWS | Posted May 25, 2020

Watch: Video

Emotional doesn’t begin to describe the feeling as the Canadian Forces Snowbirds team landed in Moose Jaw, Sask., their official home, on Monday for the first time since the death of Capt. Jennifer Casey.

Casey was involved in a fatal plane crash in Kamloops, B.C. on May 17 during the Snowbirds’ cross-Canada tour.

READ MORE: Moose Jaw to welcome Snowbirds home with huge hearts throughout the city

The team, who are stationed at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, returned home in a C-130 Hercules aircraft.

“After the week’s events, we really wanted showcase that Moose Jaw is supporting them and thinking of them,” 15 Wing Hon. Col. Lisa Franks said.

“We arranged the city to get on board with making huge displays that the team can see from the sky.”

Chalk hearts and messages welcoming back the Snowbirds’ team. .
 Chalk hearts and messages welcoming back the Snowbirds’ team. . Roberta Bell / Global News
The community was encouraged to write messages and draw hearts for the Snowbirds’ team, as they are welcomed back to Moose Jaw. .
 The community was encouraged to write messages and draw hearts for the Snowbirds’ team, as they are welcomed back to Moose Jaw. . Roberta Bell / Global News

Community members drew chalk hearts and messages in the streets to welcome the team home.

With the encouragement of Franks and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a large Canadian flag was also displayed on the sports field at Central Collegiate during the Snowbirds’ return.

The Canadian Flag at Central Collegiate in Moose Jaw.
 The Canadian Flag at Central Collegiate in Moose Jaw. Roberta Bell / Global News

“We just want them to know that we’re here for them and this is one way of showing that,” said Lyle Johnson, one of many who helped lay the flag across the field.

READ MORE: Procession for Snowbirds crash victim makes its way through Halifax

None of the Snowbirds’ team were available for comment, as they asked for privacy while continuing to mourn the loss of Casey.

“It was really important we respect the team as they are grieving. We didn’t want to intrude on the time and the process that they have,” Franks said.

“We felt this was a good way. We knew where they would be and at what time so it was good to come together and say ‘we are supporting you and are in our hearts.’”

She can’t speak for them, but believes they wold appreciate the gesture.

“I hope it lifts their spirits a little bit. They go around Canada and entertain us putting on a show,” Franks said.

“It unites Canadians with hope and now we can flip the script on them and give them a display to show we are thinking of them.”

15 Wing Chaplain is also requesting that any photos taken of the hearts across Moose Jaw are emailed to Sjamj@hotmail.com so it can put together a digital memory book for Casey’s family.

Casey, 35, was from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her body was returned home on Sunday.  She was a public affairs officer with the Canadian Armed forces.

— With files from Mickey Djuric.Watch: Maritimers supporting each other following the death of Captain Jennifer Casey

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim makes its way through Halifax

News from The Star – link to story

By The Canadian Press ~ Sun., May 24, 2020

HALIFAX—A procession honouring the Canadian Forces Snowbirds team member killed in a recent plane crash began under blue skies in Halifax Sunday evening, as the remains of the young officer remembered for her bright smile arrived in her hometown.

Close friends and family members wearing black and the official Snowbirds colours of red and white laid flowers on Capt. Jennifer Casey’s casket during a homecoming ceremony on the tarmac near Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

The 35-year-old military public affairs officer and Halifax native died in the crash of a Snowbirds Tutor jet in a residential area of Kamloops, B.C., last Sunday.

The national aerobatics team was on a cross-country tour to boost residents’ spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette wore face masks as they stood at the airport ceremony along with dozens of military members.

Payette said the Snowbirds do a risky job, and added she was proud to be in Halifax honouring Casey.

“The fact that this happened during Operation Inspiration, where they were going around cheering us Canadians, is even more tragic,” Payette said after the ceremony.

A bagpiper played while military members carried Casey’s casket from the CC-130J Hercules that had taken off from Abbotsford, B.C., Sunday morning after an earlier private ceremony with her Snowbirds teammates.

A police-escorted motorcade then left the Halifax airport to transport Casey’s remains on a loop through the north end of the city to Atlantic Funeral Home.

Spectators were encouraged to wear red and white, and to respect social distancing measures while observing the procession.

Footage showed supporters parked along Highway 102, many standing beside their vehicles holding Canada and Nova Scotia flags.

Haligonians stood by to observe the motorcade as it travelled through the city, including military members and several people wearing Star Wars masks and Montreal Canadiens jerseys in a nod to Casey’s personal interests.

In the week since the crash, Casey’s family said she possessed a beautiful smile and a “positively infectious personality” that made her the ideal person to carry out a mission aimed at stirring hope during a time of uncertainty.

Friends and former colleagues have remembered her as upbeat, professional and enthusiastic with lasting pride about her hometown.

Casey’s “final journey home to Halifax” began on Sunday morning, according to a tweet posted from the official Snowbirds account.

The Snowbirds thanked Canadians and singled out the residents of Kamloops and local First Nations for supporting Casey, the squadron and Capt. Richard MacDougall, who was piloting the aircraft and survived the crash that occurred shortly after takeoff. The military has said his injuries are not life-threatening.

“Your love and support is very deeply appreciated, and will never be forgotten,” the tweet read.

Casey earned bachelor’s degrees in arts and journalism from Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College in Halifax, as well a master’s of interdisciplinary studies from Royal Roads University in Victoria.

Before joining the Armed Forces, Casey had a career as a radio reporter, anchor and producer in Halifax and Belleville, Ont.

She began her military career as a direct entry officer August 2014 and was assigned to the Snowbirds in 2018.

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The military is investigating the May 17 crash, and Operation Inspiration has been suspended while the team’s jets are subject to an “operational pause,” the team’s commander said last week. Lt.-Col. Mike French said the events were the “absolute worst nightmare” for the Snowbirds.

Casey’s death is the latest in a string of tragedies to have touched the province of Nova Scotia in recent months, all during the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed 58 lives in the province.

A gunman killed 22 people last month in a rampage that began in the rural community of Portapique, shocking residents of the area and Nova Scotians across the province.

It’s also the second time this month that the city of Halifax has observed a motorcade for a military member who called the city home.

The remains of Sub.-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, a Royal Canadian Navy sailor killed last month in a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece, were transported through the city by a police-escorted motorcade on May 11.

Thousands of people attended the motorcade for the 23-year-old Cowbrough, who was originally from Toronto but had lived in the Dartmouth area.

Halifax motorcade to honour Capt. Jennifer Casey on Sunday

News from CBC News – link to story

Public affairs officer died in crash of Canadian Forces Snowbirds plane last week in B.C.

CBC News · Posted: May 24, 2020 6:00 AM AT | Last Updated: 4 hours ago

Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died on May 17. (Royal Canadian Air Force)

Capt. Jennifer Casey is returning to her home city of Halifax today and there will be a motorcade in her honour from the airport to the funeral home.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds public affairs officer and former journalist died on May 17 when the aircraft she was in crashed after takeoff in Kamloops, B.C.

That final flight was part of the Snowbirds’ cross-country tour to recognize the efforts of Canadians in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBC News will carry a live stream of the procession, which starts at 5 p.m. AT.

At the request of Casey’s family, spectators are asked to respect physical distancing measures in relation to COVID-19. They’re also encouraging people to wear the colours of the Snowbirds — red and white — in Casey’s honour.

Governor General Julie Payette will also attend the homecoming ceremony at the Halifax airport on Sunday, according to a release from her office.

The planned motorcade route is:

  • From the Park & Fly parking lot to Highway 102.
  • Highway 102 to Bayers Road.
  • Bayers Road to Connaught Avenue.
  • Right onto Connaught Avenue to Almon Street.
  • Left onto Almon Street to Agricola Street.
  • Left onto Agricola Street to Highland Avenue.
  • Slight right onto Highland Avenue to Woodbine Avenue.
  • Left onto Woodbine Avenue to Rosemeade Avenue.
  • Left onto Rosemeade Avenue to Hillside Avenue.
  • Right onto Hillside Avenue to Robie Street.
  • Right onto Robie Street to Normandy Drive.
  • Left onto Normandy Drive to High Street.
  • Left onto High Street to Lady Hammond Road.
  • Left onto Lady Hammond Road to Robie Street.
  • Right onto Robie Street to Young Street.
  • Right onto Young Street to the Windsor Street intersection; continue straight onto Bayers Road.
  • Continue on Bayers Road to Atlantic Funeral Home.

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely

News from Kamloops This Week – link to this story

Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer for 19 Wing Comox, said a small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets for as long as they need to be

Michael Potestio /KTW / Kamloops This Week / MAY 22, 2020

SnowbirdsThe red and white Snowbirds remain on the ground until the cause of the crash is determined. Snowbirds commanding officer Lieut.-Col. Mike French has said the investigation could take up to a year to complete.Photograph By MICHAEL POTESTIO/KTW

Some members of the Snowbirds team will call Kamloops home, remaining in the city to look after their CT-114 Tutor jets that remain grounded indefinitely on Fulton Field at Kamloops Airport.

On May 17, one of the jets crashed in Brocklehurst shortly after takeoff, claiming the life of Capt. Jennifer Casey and injuring Capt. Richard MacDougall who was piloting the plane. Both managed to eject from the plan before it crashed, but Casey succumbed to injuries suffered in the incident. article continues below 

The Snowbirds were on a cross-Canada tour called Operation Inspiration, intended to salute frontline health-care workers and lift the spirits of the public amid the pandemic. The tour, which began on May 3 in Nova Scotia, has been suspended due to the tragedy.

Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer for 19 Wing Comox, said most members of the Snowbirds have now departed the city for Moose Jaw — the Snowbirds’ home base — via a Hercules plane, but a small contingent is staying behind, acting as stewards of the jets for as long as they need to be.

Hejduk said those team members will remain at whatever local hotel they have been staying, with the military covering the cost.

They are also supporting MacDougall, who is recovering at Royal Inland Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Hejduk couldn’t comment on the role MacDougall will play in determining the cause of the crash, but noted the investigative team is interviewing all witnesses, MacDougall being one of them.

Hejduk said the red and white Snowbirds remain on the ground until the cause of the crash is determined. Snowbirds commanding officer Lieut.-Col. Mike French has said the investigation could take up to a year to complete.

Snowbirds house
Police tape at the crash site has been moved back to just outside the Glenview Avenue home the jet struck. One side of the house, which has been handed back to the homeowners, is charred and boarded up, with a few holes in the roof. – Michael Potestio/KTW

Military investigators arrived in Kamloops on May 18 and the wreckage of the plane was cleared from the crash site on Glenview Avenue by May 21.

First Military Police Regiment from Edmonton, with the assistance of the Rocky Mountain Rangers and Joint Task Force Pacific, secured the site, and the RCAF’s 19 Wing Comox aided with recovering the wreckage.

Hejduk said military personnel have some logistics and loose ends to tie up before departing Kamloops by the weekend. The wreckage will be transported to Ottawa.

Police tape at the crash site has been moved back to just outside the Glenview Avenue home the jet struck. One side of the house, which Hejduk said has been handed back to the homeowners, is charred and boarded up, with a few holes in the roof.

Footage of the crash site release on social media showed flaming wreckage up against that side of the home and what appeared to be the tail of the plane across the street.

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s directorate of flight safety team began its preliminary field investigation on May 18, amassing evidence and removing the wreckage from the site to be transported to a secure location, catalogued and analyzed, Hejduk said.

She said there is no timeline for completion of the investigation, noting people have been asking how long it will be before there are answers.

“Those members need to be able to do everything in the most thorough, objective and professional manner as possible so we can get down to the bottom of what happened,” Hejduk said.

On May 17, two Snowbirds jets departed Kamloops Airport, en route to Comox.

Casey and MacDougall’s jet began flying vertically before beginning to spiral toward the ground, followed by the subsequent crash.

Casey and MacDougall ended up on a Schreiner Street property — Casey in the backyard and MacDougall on the roof of the house — while the aircraft exploded and then fell into a Glenview Avenue front yard, about six doors away from the two crew members.

Local legion honours victim, survivor of Snowbirds crash in Kamloops, B.C.

News from City News 1130 – link to story

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS | May 21, 2020

Kamloops firefighters stand during a minute of silence during a tribute ceremony to honour Capt. Jennifer Casey at the Kamloops Airport Thursday May 21, 2020. Capt. Casey, the Snowbirds public affairs officer, died after the Snowbirds jet she was in crashed shortly after takeoff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Thousands of people tuned in online Thursday to hear the sombre sound of a bugle playing the Last Post and to take a moment of pause in remembrance of the victim of a Snowbirds plane crash.

The local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion held the ceremony at the Kamloops airport, where the military aircraft took off before the fatal crash on Sunday.

The ceremony paid tribute to Capt. Jennifer Casey, who died, and Capt. Richard MacDougall, who was seriously injured after they ejected from the plane.

While the public was initially invited, the legion shifted to an online broadcast amid concerns the event would draw a mass gathering contrary to public health recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ceremony also included the singing of O’ Canada, the laying of wreaths, and several speakers who showed support for the Snowbirds and all who serve in the Canadian Forces.

Among the speakers was Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian, who said the city will memorialize the tragedy and recognize the contributions of the Snowbirds.

“They’re cherished Canadian icons that have been with us for 50 years and we will make an appropriate memorial to their service to this country,” Christian said.

Daniel Martin, president of the Kamloops legion, said the Air Force has always been a part of the city, and it was very important to do something to honour the Snowbirds and Casey, while offering condolences to her family.

“Hopefully the healing process can start.”

Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, public affairs officer with the Canadian Forces, said the Casey family, who lives in Halifax, is grateful for the support from the Kamloops community in the aftermath of Sunday’s tragedy.

She documented the event and sent photos to the family, she said.

“This is a city of so much heart, so much love and giving,” she said. (CHNL)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2020.

The Canadian Press

‘At no point was this about us’: Lower Mainland aviators honour Capt. Casey, Snowbirds with flyover

News from City News 1130 – link to story

BY LISA STEACY AND TARNJIT PARMAR | Posted May 18, 2020

(Courtesy Twitter/SandeepJhutty)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Eyes were on the sky Monday as Lower Mainlanders watched close to two dozen planes fly over the region to pay tribute to Capt. Jennifer Casey who was killed in a plane crash on Sunday. 

In the wake of the fatal crash, which happened during a flyover scheduled as part of Operation Inspiration, local pilots decided to pick up where the Snowbirds left off.

“As aviators, we’re all together and when one of our friends, or one of our colleagues falls, it’s up to the rest of the team to pick up the pieces. That’s what that was today was us picking up what the Snowbirds had to leave off yesterday,” Ryan Van Haren, president of the BC General Aviation Association, told NEWS 1130 right after the end of the one hour flight.

“There isn’t too much time for emotion when you’re flying the airplane, our priority was to aviate. We’re on the ground now and kind of soaking in what a special thing it was to be able to recognize the team, and recognize Capt. Casey in this way.”

He said the pilots of small planes don’t usually fly in groups. The flight was carefully planned, and all the pilots received a thorough briefing from air traffic control.

“Everyone flew safely and everyone respected the rules, and we have been getting messages from all over the Lower Mainland,” Van Haren said.

He notes a friend of his, a former Snowbird, was sharing a live stream of the flyover with the Snowbirds squadron that is grounded in Kamloops.

“We did our part to make sure that Vancouver was included in Operation Inspiration, and hopefully to raise some of the spirits of Canadians,” Van Haren said.

“This isn’t about us. At no point was this about us. This is about recognizing the team and what they started.”

People across the region shared images and videos of the flyover with NEWS 1130.

Cause of Snowbirds crash won’t be known for weeks or months, commanding officer says Social Sharing

News from CBC News – link to story

Lt.-Col. Mike French says the pilot would have ordered the ejection only after all options had run out

Ashleigh Mattern · CBC News · Posted: May 18, 2020

A Snowbirds plane crashes near a house in Kamloops, B.C. Witnesses say the plane landed near the house and the pilot landed on a roof nearby. (Submitted by Elwood Delaney)

197 comments

The commanding officer of the Snowbirds said Sunday’s crash was a worst-case scenario that became an “absolute worst nightmare.”

Speaking in Moose Jaw Monday, Lt.-Col. Mike French said the circumstances leading up to the crash are still not known.

A Snowbirds jet crashed shortly after takeoff in Kamloops, B.C., on Sunday. Capt. Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died in the crash. The pilot, Capt. Richard McDougall, survived with non-life-threatening injuries.

“Yesterday’s circumstances led to the confluence of all those worst-case scenarios and it became our absolute worst nightmare,” Lt.-Col. French said at a media briefing.

The Snowbirds were doing a cross-country tour to raise people’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The crash caused a residential fire.

Lt.-Col. French described Casey as “a tireless and energetic officer.”

“She absolutely loved this job,” he said. “Her loss is a serious blow not only to our team but to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole.”

WATCH | Neighbours stunned after Snowbirds crash:

Investigators still don’t know why a Canadian Snowbirds jet crashed in Kamloops B.C. on Sunday, killing Capt. Jenn Casey, but people there are still stunned by what they saw and heard.

Prior to the crash, both McDougall and Casey ejected. French said McDougall would have ordered the ejection only after all options had run out.

“Our pilots are highly trained to do this manoeuvre,” he said. “Not only that, we brief it before takeoff every time. And what you saw yesterday was the confluence of a whole bunch of intersecting circumstances where it led to our worst-case scenario.”

French said pilots do everything they can to mitigate the risks to the public.

“It’s absolutely our first priority as pilots in these airplanes to consider the safety of the public, the safety of our personnel and the safety of the protection of equipment and preservation of property,” he said.

Investigation could take a year to complete

The accident is still under investigation. French said typically the investigator will provide a quick snapshot within about 30 days, but the full investigation can take up to a year or longer to complete.

About every second year, once the planes accumulate 400 hours of flying time, the CT-114 Tutor planes are torn down and rebuilt, French said, so the planes are in “mint condition.”

Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died Sunday in the crash. (Royal Canadian Air Force)

He said planes are also inspected every time prior to flying by avionics people, aircraft structures people, safety systems people and the pilot.

For now, the Snowbirds are grounded, though French said he hopes the mission continues.

“As Canadian ambassadors, we demonstrate the skill, professionalism and teamwork of the Canadian Forces and we serve as a platform for recruiting. It’s a mission that I can get behind, it’s a mission I believe in and it’s a mission that I believe is important.”