The warmth, energy and spirit of Capt. Jennifer Casey is shining on in the hearts of those who knew her — including members of the Canadian Armed Forces who worked alongside her while she joined the Snowbirds team as its public affairs officer.
“She really impressed everyone. She was an incredibly talented officer and a very popular member of the team so it was super hard for the team to have to deal with this loss,” said Brig.-Gen. Denis O’Reilly, the commander of 2 Canadian Air Division.
On Monday, the day the investigation report into the accident that claimed Casey’s life was published, O’Reilly said Casey is being fondly remembered by the close-knit Snowbirds family she was a valued member of.
“My heart goes out to her family and we wish Capt. MacDougall all the best in his recovery, which is ongoing,” O’Reilly said.
Capt. Richard MacDougall and Casey were ejected from their plane moments after takeoff when a bird was ingested into one of the engines, causing the aircraft to stall.
“The culmination of a bird ingested in the engine at this most critical phase of the flight is just so very remote and yet so very catastrophic,” said Col. John Alexander, the director of flight safety with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Alexander says the community of Kamloops, B.C., where the accident happened, was extremely supportive of investigators as they pieced together the events that led to Casey’s death.
Part of that includes the ejection happening so quickly after takeoff that the parachutes of MacDougall and Casey didn’t have time to fully inflate.
“It was still being pulled out of the parachute bag as she hit the ground, unfortunately,” Alexander said.
An outpouring of heartache and emotions hit her home province of Nova Scotia following the news that Casey had died in the crash.
A procession held in her honour saw people doing all they could during the pandemic to pay their respects to a woman who was known in Halifax for her charisma as a talk radio host and then onwards as a vibrant team member with the Snowbirds — a team she helped lead during Operation Inspiration, a cross-country tour aimed at brightening the spirts of Canadians during the pandemic.
“Op Inspiration, of course, Capt. Casey was fully behind it. She was one of the main organizers as a public affairs officer so she was the face of this entire Op Inspiration effort to encourage Canadians during COVID,” O’Reilly said.
The CAF says Casey’s family has been briefed on the report and has declined to comment at this time.