A Canadian Forces Snowbird jet crashed in Brocklehurst shortly after takeoff from Kamloops Airport today (May 17, 2020) about 11:30 a.m. as horrified spectators watched.
The CT-114 Tutor aircraft rose into the air alongside a second jet and appeared to begin circling back when it went into a roll, twisted downward and there were puffs of smoke as the pilot apparently ejected.
Kamloops residents Graham and Kelly Trotman, who witnessed the crash, told ArmchairMayor.ca they at first thought it was going to be a maneuvre as part of the show.
“Everyone thought it was part of the show,” Graham said. “You go from exhilaration to that,” he added, still shaken by what he saw.
CFJC Today quoted another witness, Zion Chong, as saying, “The planes just lifted up and they were flying low and then they started pulling up after they gained some altitude. One plane started to turn left at a sharp angle and then started dropping (like a stunt) nose down. After dropping for a second, I saw a small explosion and saw the pilot eject then the plane just drop and exploded.”
Other witness said they saw two parachutes.
Emergency crews including the airport’s aircraft rescue fleet immediately headed for the crash site believed to be near Glenview Avenue. Various reports said the aircraft struck a house in the area but there was no word on the status of the pilot or co-pilot, although one person was reportedly taken to hospital with serious injuries.
One report said the pilot had landed on the roof of a house on Schreiner Street. Photos by witnesses appear to show someone on the roof receiving medical attention.
Annette Schonewillie told CBC she watched as the two aircraft rose from the runway when one appeared to catch fire. “The one plane continued and the other one, there was two puffs, it looked like puffs of smoke and one… was a ball of 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.”
Elwood Delaney said he saw a parachute as the plane descended. “I saw one parachute who landed on a house close by.”
The Snowbirds were in Kamloops as part of a cross-country COVID-19 tour called Operation Inspiration and were scheduled to do a fly-over at Vernon on their way to Kelowna.
The Tutor 114 is designed as a training aircraft and features a side-by-side cockpit.
The Canadian Forces confirmed the loss of the Snowbirds aircraft shortly after the crash. “Our priority at this time is determining the status of our personnel and supporting emergency personnel,” the RCAF stated. “When appropriate, more information will be made available.”
The tour, intended as a morale booster during the pandemic, began in Nova Scotia.
Last October, a Snowbird crashed in Georgia. In that case, the pilot suffered minor injuries and no one else was hurt. The plane crashed into a farmer’s field.
Nine aircraft fly in the Snowbirds show, with two extras accompanying them as spares.