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.
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.
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.