Statement From Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French, 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron Commanding Officer
At approximately 11:45 a.m. on May 17, 2020, shortly after take-off from Kamloops Airport, Snowbird 11, a Canadian Forces Snowbirds CT-114 Tutor, crashed into a nearby neighbourhood. Prior to the crash, the two person crew of the aircraft ejected. Tragically, Captain Jenn Casey, the team’s Public Affairs Officer, did not survive. The aircraft’s pilot, Captain Rich MacDougall survived with non-life threatening injuries.
The team is devastated by the loss of Jenn. She was the quintessential Public Affairs Officer. 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. She absolutely loved what she did; she was one of the main reasons Op INSPIRATION has been so well received by the public. 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.
Her loss is a serious blow to not only our Team, but to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole. I’ve spoken with Jenn’s family, and passed on our sincere and heartfelt condolences. No words can ease the pain they are feeling right now, I have passed on that they are not grieving alone.
We are also thinking of Capt MacDougall at this time, and supporting him as he recovers from his injuries. 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.
At this time the precise circumstances leading up to the crash are not known. The crash site has been secured by local law enforcement and the immediate Flight Safety response is being coordinated on the ground by the team’s Flight Safety Officer as we speak. An investigation team from the Directorate of Flight Safety in Ottawa has already arrived in Kamloops to conduct a flight safety investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
We want to thank the first responders from the Kamloops region for their timely and professional response, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the stoic and brave response of the members of the public who came to the aid of our teammates, especially those who had the aircraft land in their neighbourhood.
We also appreciate all the messages of support for Rich and his wellbeing. The support of every Canadian is truly appreciated during these difficult times.
As of now, Operation INSPIRATION is postponed until further notice, and the entire Snowbird fleet is on an operational pause. Over the coming days the team will re-group, and come together to mourn the loss of our colleague. When appropriate to do so, we will return to 15 Wing Moose Jaw to plan our next steps.
Today, however, we need a day to decompress and understand what happened to Jenn and to Rich. We will share our hearts with Canadians tomorrow; the team members need this time to be together and to mourn in private. We thank all Canadians for their continued support, patience, and understanding during this immensely challenging time for the team.