Snowbirds jets leaving Kamloops, B.C., 3 months after fatal crash

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds jets, grounded in Kamloops, B.C., for three months after a fatal crash, will begin flying back to their home base in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Two of the jets will take off Tuesday, with the remainder expected to return next week, said commanding officer Lt.-Col. Denis Bandet.

The CT-114 Tutor jets have been in Kamloops since May 17.

The Snowbirds were travelling across the country as part of Operation Inspiration, a salute to Canadians and front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, when one of the jets crashed and burst into flames in the front yard of a house shortly after takeoff.

Capt. Jenn Casey, a public affairs officer with the Snowbirds, died after ejecting from the plane. Capt. Richard MacDougall, the pilot, sustained serious injuries after ejecting. 

Investigators believe a bird strike was a probable cause of the crash.

Bandet said MacDougall is “doing really well” and that he has full confidence in the planes, which have been inspected by engineers. 

“We took the time to sit back and look at everything through a microscope,” Bandet said Tuesday, while thanking the community for their support.

“The outpouring of support has been outstanding and we felt it resonate all the way back to Moose Jaw and it’s helped us get through this difficult period.”

The Canadian Armed Forces is asking residents not to come to the airport to see the jets leave, in an effort to ensure everyone’s health and safety. 

Kamloops Coun. Bill Sarai said it’s been a difficult few months for the city.

The city would like to memorialize Capt. Casey and is working with the Department of National Defence, the squadron and her family, Sarai said.

“Whether it’s a park, name a street, we will be more than accommodating to set something up in the memory of Jennifer Casey,” he said.

Seeing the Snowbirds leave will be difficult for some residents, he added. 

“It’s going to be tough on a lot of residents that were there around the crash site, were impacted, and to this day there’s some that said it will never be the same,” Sarai said.

“It’s an emotional moment.”

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