Covid-19 has gripped Canada since early 2020. Healthcare workers and first responders have been working countless hours, treating Canadian's who have been afflicted with the virus. Mirroring their American counterparts, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds organized a cross-country tour, to raise Canadian's spirits and salute frontline medical staff.
Dubbed "Operation Inspiration", the tour would take the team from the Maritimes to the west coast of Canada. The team would overfly hospitals and neighbourhoods in as many cities as they could possible reach. After a brief day off at their base in Moose Jaw, the team made its way to Saskatoon. The team arrived mid-morning and made passes over all three of Saskatoon's hospitals, as well as the Children's hospital. Once on the ground, the expert technicians began prepping the jets for the next leg of their trip, up to 4 Wing Cold Lake, AB. While on the ground, past met present, when current team members got to meet a local World War 2 Vet.
Reg "Crash" Harrison flew both the Halifax and Lancaster bombers, for 431 Bomber Squadron, RCAF. In 2018, Reg was made an Honorary Snowbird by the team. Reg talked about his wartime experiences and the team pilots who met him, intently hung on his words. As soon as the team had landed, the jets taxied to the runway and departed, but not before making one final pass over the airport.
From Cold Lake, the team worked its way down to Edmonton, then continued west, before arriving in Kamloops BC, for the evening. Bad weather delayed their planned overflight of the Okanogan, so the decision was made to repostion to 19 Wing Comox, and work their way back to areas they had missed.
Unfortunately, the tour has taken a tragic turn, as one of the Snowbird aircraft crashed after takeoff from the Kamlops airport. Both occupants were able to eject from the aircraft, coming down in a residential neighborhood. The pilot, Captain Richard McDougall, survived the crash, but tragically, the team's Public Affairs Officer, Captain Jenn Casey, lost her life. As of this writing, the team is still in Kamloops and accident investigators are on the ground.
In the wake of this tragedy, tributes for Captain Casey and well wishes for Captain McDougall and the entire Snowbird team, have been pouring in from all over the world. In the span of a couple of days, it has become abundantly clear just what kind of person Jenn was, and the number of lives that she touched. In my personal dealings with her, she was always welcoming and very helpful, during my two visits to the squadron last year. I mourn Jenn's loss, alongside her friends, family, fellow team members and her extended air show family.
I'd be remiss if I don't mention Captain Richard McDougall again. I certainly wish him a speedy recovery. My thoughts are with him and the entire Snowbird team as they rally around Rich, while also mourning Jenn's passing, then plotting their next steps as they grapple with this tragedy.
This gallery is dedicated to the memory of Captain Jenn Casey. May she rest in peace.
If you would like to help preserve Jenn's legacy, please consider signing the following petition. It is to ask Kamloops city officials to rename the main road to the Kamloops airport, in memory of Captain Casey. Petition for Captain Jenn Casey memorial
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