A Canadian Forces Snowbirds planecrashed in a residential area of Kamloops, B.C., on Sunday, sending neighbours pouring onto the street where they said debris was scattered and a house was on fire.
The Kamloops Airport said emergency crews were responding to the crash as defence officials were scrambling for details about the incident, the second crash involving the military’s famed aerobatic team in less than a year.
British Columbia Minister of Health Adrian Dix said one person was in the hospital after paramedics and air ambulances responded to the crash.
“Our thoughts are with all affected during this difficult time,” said Dix in a Twitter post.
Kenny Hinds, who lives in a house seven doors down from the crash site, said it looked like the living room of the house where the crash occurred was on fire.
“I just started running down the street. And I got there maybe a minute after it crashed and there was a couple of residents that had their hoses out and they were trying to put the flames out because it hit a house,” he said. “It looked like most of it landed in the front yard, but maybe a wing or something went through the roof perhaps.”
“So there was a bunch of people running around trying to see if we could get into the house to see if anybody’s OK.”
Sunday’s crash occurred the same day the Snowbirds were scheduled to make a trip from Kamloops to Kelownaas part of Operation Inspiration, a cross-country tour aimed at boosting the morale of Canadians struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kamloops RCMP said the situation is dynamic and they weren’t able to confirm any details about injuries as of mid-afternoon on Sunday.
The Mounties said they will work with other safety and regulatory agencies to determine the cause of the crash, which was reported around 11:40 a.m.
The detachment in Kamloops is requesting that anyone who may have captured the crash on video contact police.
Video posted to Twitter by 610 AM in Kamloops appears to show two Snowbirds taking off from what is believed to have been Kamloops Airport.
One of the aircraft subsequently climbed into the sky before rolling over and plunging to the ground. The video appears to show at least one person ejecting from the plane before it disappears behind a stand of trees and an explosion is heard.
— Victor Mario Kaisar (@supermario_47) May 17, 2020
I heard the Snowbird. Took a look out the window and saw it do a barrel roll… the pilot ejected… the plane took a nosedive straight down. #Kamloops
— ᎷᎥᏦᏋ (@MikeGT79) May 17, 2020
— ᎷᎥᏦᏋ (@MikeGT79) May 17, 2020
“A Canadian Forces Snowbirds aircraft has crashed in the vicinity of Kamloops, B.C.,” the Department of National Defence said in a statement.
“This is a developing situation. Our number one priority at this time is determining the status of our personnel, the community and supporting emergency personnel. When appropriate, more information will be made available.”
The #RCAF has been made aware that a Canadian Forces Snowbirds aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Kamloops, BC. Our priority at this time is determining the status of our personnel and supporting emergency personnel. When appropriate, more information will be made available.
— Royal Canadian Air Force (@RCAF_ARC) May 17, 2020
Marni Capostinsky said she lives across the street from the crash site and was out on the deck when she heard the plane getting closer.
“We ran out under the cover to look and saw something black coming towards us, everyone hit the deck it was so loud,” said Capostinsky.
Capostinsky said there were large flames flaring on and off and there was a strong toxic smell in the area.
She says her son immediately ran out with a hose and neighbours tried to help before first responders arrived.
“It was really scary but good to see everyone trying to come together,” said Capostinsky.
Hinds had been watching the aircraft after hearing them take off, and said he was able to see the crash.
“I heard ‘bang, bang,’ and just as I looked before it left my view from the house beside me, I saw the Snowbird going straight down,” he said.
“I saw what looked like a parachute about, say, 20 feet over the house, and it disappeared from sight, and the parachute hadn’t fully deployed yet — it was still sort of straight up and down.”
Rose Miller lives directly across the street from where the plane hit. She’d watched the Snowbirds arrive on Saturday, and went to her front window when she heard the roar of jet engines.
Miller said she heard a loud bang and wondered whether it might be a sonic boom. Then she watched the plane smash onto the ground.
“It looked to me like it was mostly on the road, but it just exploded. It went everywhere,” she said. “In fact, I got a big huge piece in my backyard. The cops said it was the ejection seat.”
Miller said a couple in their early 70s lives in the home. Both are OK, she said, noting she’d spoken with them after they were evacuated to a nearby street.
The woman had been in the basement while the man was behind the house.
Miller a said section of roof on a nearby street has been covered up.
Operation Inspiration started in Nova Scotia earlier this month and features the team’s signature nine-jet formation. It was aimed at boosting morale as Canadians continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday’s crash follows the downing of another Snowbird in the U.S. state of Georgia last October, where the team was scheduled to perform in an air show.
Capt. Kevin Domon-Grenier sustained minor injuries when he ejected from the plane, which crashed into a farmer’s field. No one else was hurt.
A preliminary report on last year’s Snowbird crash blamed engine failure, though military investigators had yet to identify the cause of the problem.
“Following a routine check while inverted, the pilot rolled level and applied full power to rejoin the formation,” reads the report.
“Shortly after the pilot experienced a loss of thrust. Losing altitude and unable to recover engine power, the pilot elected to eject as the aircraft was too low to attempt a safe recovery to an airport.”
The Snowbirds have performed at air shows across Canada and the U.S. for decades and are considered a key tool for raising awareness about — and recruiting for — the air force. Eleven aircraft are used during shows, with nine flying and two kept as spares.
The air force obtained its Tutor jets in 1963 and has used them in air demonstrations since 1971. Prior to Sunday’s crash, seven pilots and one passenger had been killed and several aircraft had been lost over the course of the Snowbirds’ history.
— with files from Salmaan Farooqui in Toronto, Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa, Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Brenna Owen in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2020