PHOTOS: Snowbirds pause flights as military, public mourn service member killed in crash

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds jets are seen in the background as Canadian flags are attached to the fence at the Kamloops airport in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, May 18, 2020. Capt. Jenn Casey died Sunday after the Snowbirds jet she was in crashed shortly after takeoff. The pilot of the aircraft is in hospital with serious injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Capt. Jennifer Casey, a Royal Canadian Air Force public relations officer, was killed in a Snowbirds crash in Kamloops on Sunday, May 17, 2020. (RCAF)
Members of the First Nations take part in a drum ceremony to remember fallen Snowbirds Capt. Jenn Casey in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, May 18, 2020. Capt.Casey died Sunday after the Snowbirds jet she was in crashed shortly after takeoff. The pilot of the aircraft is in hospital with serious injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs Officer Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, right, is thanked for her service with a elbow bump by a first nations elder at the Kamloops airport in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, May 18, 2020. People are gathering at the airport to honour Canadian Forces Snowbirds Capt. Jenn Casey who died Sunday after the jet she was in crashed after takeoff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
First Nations drummers salute Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs Officer Lt. Alexandra Hejduk during a drum ceremony to remember fallen Snowbirds Capt. Jenn Casey in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, May 18, 2020. Capt.Casey died Sunday after the Snowbirds jet she was in crashed shortly after takeoff. The pilot of the aircraft is in hospital with serious injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian Forces Snowbirds planes are seen in the background as people place hearts and signs on the fence surrounding the airport in Kamloops, B.C., Sunday, May 17, 2020. One member of the Canadian Armed Forces has died and another is injured after a Snowbird plane crashed in a residential area of Kamloops, B.C., on Sunday while on a cross-country tour meant to impart hope during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
First Nations drummers salute Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs Officer Lt. Alexandra Hejduk during a drum ceremony to remember fallen Snowbirds Capt. Jenn Casey in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, May 18, 2020. Capt.Casey died Sunday after the Snowbirds jet she was in crashed shortly after takeoff. The pilot of the aircraft is in hospital with serious injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Snowbirds team will take a break from their flight across Canada to mourn the death of their public relations officer in a crash in Kamloops Sunday.

In a statement, Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French, Commanding Officer of the Snowbirds, said the team was devastated by the loss of Capt. Jennifer Casey when her jet crashed into a home in Kamloops just before noon.

“She absolutely loved what she did; she was one of the main reasons Operation Inspiration has been so well received by the public,” French said. The Snowbirds had been flying across the country to raise morale amid the restrictions placed on Canadians while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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.”

French called Casey the “quintessential” public relations officer. Casey joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2014 after working as a journalist in Halifax and Belleville. Casey initially joined as a direct entry officer and then as a public affairs officer for Royal Canadian Air Force at 8 Wing Trenton, RCAF’s home base for air mobility. She spent most of 2018 with the CF-18 Demo Team before joining the Snowbirds in November of that year.

The plane’s pilot, Capt. Rich MacDougall survived the crash with serious but not life threatening 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,” French said.

In Kamloops, mourners gathered to pay their respects to Casey as a group of First Nations drummers saluted the officers. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one Canadian Armed Forces member, Capt. Jennifer Casey, and one injured, Capt. Richard MacDougall.”

READ MORE: One dead in Canadian Forces Snowbirds plane crash in Kamloops

READ MORE: B.C. pilots organize memorial flight to honour Snowbirds after fatal crash

READ MORE: Retired defence chief defends Snowbirds’ ‘fantastic’ Tutor jets

READ MORE: Commander calls Snowbirds crash ‘worst nightmare’ as Forces begins investigation


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katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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