Investigation into fatal crash underway

The cause of Sunday’s fatal air crash in Kamloops, is not yet known but an investigation is already underway.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were in B.C. as part of their Operation Inspiration tour. Public affairs officer Capt. Jenn Casey died in the crash. The pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

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The Canadian Forces Snowbirds held a press conference Monday afternoon at 15 Wing Moose Jaw. Lt.-Col. Mike French, Commanding Officer of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, said the team is taking time to mourn their colleague.

“The team is devastated by the loss of Jenn. She was the quintessential public affairs officer,” said French. “She had a savvy with social media that endeared her to the public. She absolutely loved this job and it was one of the reasons that Operation Inspiration had been so well received by the public…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.”

An RCAF Flight Safety team from Ottawa will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident. Initial findings, which French described as a “snapshot” could be revealed within the next 30 days, although the full investigation could take up to a year.

“Our pilots are highly trained to do this manoeuvre. Not only that, we brief it before takeoff every time. What you saw yesterday was the confluence of a whole bunch of intersecting circumstances where it led to our worst-case scenario,” said French. “Our priorities are always the safety of the public, the safety of our personnel, and the protection of our equipment and property. In this case, all those options evaporated before Capt. Rich MacDougall ordered the ejection.”

The Snowbirds remain grounded as part of an “operational pause.” The team was also briefly grounded after a crash in October 2019. When asked about the future of the team, French replied that he hopes the Snowbirds can continue their mission.

“I am the Commanding Officer of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds — I don’t speak on behalf of the DND and the Canadian Forces on those decisions. I can certainly tell you that the mission of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds is, as Canadian ambassadors, we demonstrate the skills, professionalism, and teamwork of the Canadian Forces, and we serve as a platform for recruiting.

“It is a mission I can get behind, it is a mission I believe in, and it is a mission I believe is important. I certainly hope our mission will continue.”

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