Canada’s minister of defence offered condolences and thanked both first responders and members of the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds while visiting a growing memorial to Sunday’s deadly plane crash.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Tuesday that he recently spoke to the family of Capt. Jennifer Casey, who was killed when the CT-114 Tutor aircraft she was riding in suddenly fell into a residential neighbourhood shortly after taking off from Kamloops Airport on Sunday.
Standing in front of nearly a kilometre of fencing at the airport now covered in Canadian flags, flowers and written tributes, Sajjan said his thoughts were with Casey’s family and the rest of the Snowbirds.
“As we can see from the Snowbirds team, they are absolute professionals, they inspired all Canadians at a time when we needed it,” he said.
“All of Canada needed it and were inspired, and having this display demonstrates to them how much we appreciate what they do for all of us.”
The Snowbirds were set to wrap up their cross-country Operation Inspiration tour, which was launched to boost Canadians’ morale during the coronavirus pandemic, when Sunday’s crash occurred.
Sajjan also wished a speedy recovery for the Snowbirds member who was piloting the Tutor aircraft, Capt. Richard MacDougal, who sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries.
Acknowledging the airport memorial, Sajjan thanked the people of Kamloops for their “tremendous outpouring of support,” as well as the local first responders who attended to both Casey and MacDougal at the crash scene.
The minister met with Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian and Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod, along with the Snowbirds team and commanding officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Sajjan’s visit to Kamloops comes just after a team of military investigators were sent to the site of the crash on Monday to investigate its cause, which is yet to be determined.
The military has taken the lead in the crash investigation, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised on Tuesday would be “proper.”
“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.”
Sunday’s incident follows the deaths of another six CAF members who had crash in a Cyclone helicopter during a NATO training mission in late April.
Trudeau said “good questions” are being asked about the safety of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s equipment, particularly the Snowbirds’ decades-old Tutor jets. But he said he would wait for the investigations into both crashes to conclude before drawing conclusions.
— With files from David Lao