Toronto (Canada) (AFP) – A member of an elite Canadian air force aerobatics team died and another was injured when their plane crashed Sunday in Canada’s west during a performance to honor public efforts against the coronavirus, the military said.
According to local media, the aircraft — part of the team known as the Snowbirds — crashed into the front yard of a house in British Columbia shortly after taking off from Kamloops Airport late Sunday morning.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that one member of the CF Snowbirds team has died and one has sustained serious injuries,” the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) tweeted Sunday night.
The person killed was identified by Canadian media as Captain Jenn Casey, a Public Affairs Officer with the Air Force.
“We are deeply saddened and grieve alongside Jenn’s family and friends. Our thoughts are also with the loved ones of Captain MacDougall. We hope for a swift recovery from his injuries,” the RCAF said.
Witnesses said the pilot managed to eject from the plane with a parachute before it crashed, landing on the roof of a house.
In a video taken by a passer-by, the burning wreckage of the aircraft can be seen in front of a house as people gathered outside.
Photos from the crash scene also appeared to show debris burning in front of a building, part of which was on fire.
“No noise, it was strange, and then the plane just did a cartwheel and fell right out of the sky. Just boom, straight down, and then a burst of black, black smoke,” witness Annette Schonewille told Radio Canada.
Public broadcaster CBC quoted another witness, Nolyn Mcleod, as saying the plane passed about three meters (three yards) over his roof.
“We saw the pilot eject like maybe two stories high, and then the plane with no pilot in it went right between me and my neighbor’s house,” before finally hitting the neighbor’s bedroom window, he said.
“It was complete chaos. People were yelling and screaming. We thought we were getting bombed or something. That’s how hectic it was.”
The plane was scheduled to fly over British Columbia as part of a tour dubbed “Operation Inspiration,” launched earlier this month to pay tribute to Canadians’ efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The Snowbirds’ signature nine-jet formation, with trailing white smoke, began its tour in Nova Scotia and was to perform aerial displays over cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, at elevations as low as 500 feet (150 meters).