Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s defence minister, visited the growing memorial to fallen Snowbird Capt. Jennifer Casey during a Tuesday visit to Kamloops Airport.
Casey, the Snowbirds’ public affairs officer, died on Sunday when the CT-114 Tutor jet she was in crashed into a Brocklehurst neighbourhood shortly after takeoff from the airport. Capt. Richard MacDougall was injured in the crash and is recovering in hospital.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Sajjan arrived at the memorial that is growing along the fence of the airport fronting Tranquille Road, with Canadian flags, photos, flowers and messages of condolences dominating the chain link.
“The Snowbirds have been a source of pride and inspiration for many Canadian generations,” Sajjan said in a tweet. “Through Operation Inspiration, they sought to bring us comfort in dark times and now it is our turn to support them through difficult days."
Operation Inspiration is the cross-country aerial tour undertaken by the venerable RCAF Snowbirds. It started on May 3 in Nova Scotia and was initiated, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to raise the spirits of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the memorial, Sajjan gave thanks to the residents of Kamloops for their support.
In addition to his visit to the airport, where he also spent time with armed forces personnel, Sajjan stopped in at city hall, where he met with Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod and military members.
“Minister Sajjan and Gen. [Al] Meinzinger expressed sincere appreciation for the first responders at Sunday's plane crash, and for the members of the community who have come out to pay their respects and show support," Christian said.
"They were especially moved by the stories and respects paid by nearby residents, the video of the drum circle and the growing community tribute along the airport fencing, which is covered in Canadian flags, flowers and written tributes. They have requested that Kamloops send some of these tributes on the fence to the squadron's base in Moose Jaw so they can be appreciated by the Snowbirds team."
For those members of our community needing emotional support, the RCMP has provided a victim services phone line. Call 250-828-3223 or Victim Link at 1-800-563-0808.
"These are extremely challenging times and our community has been rocked to the core. We are all still processing this tragedy and, for those who need support, I encourage you to reach out to the RCMP's victim services help line," Christian said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to members of the armed forces in wake of the fatal crash.
"This has been a very difficult few weeks for members of the Canadian Armed Forces," Trudeau said.
"As we honour [Casey], we pay tribute to the bravery of all those who serve today. Our women and men in uniform are always there for us. Serving overseas to defend the values we hold dear, working here at home to care for our seniors and lift our spirits with flyovers."
Snowbirds commander Lt.-Col. Mike French said Monday the investigation into the crash could take up to a year to complete.