An Albertan airshow producer is remembering the woman killed after a plane with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds demonstration team crashed in Kamloops, B.C., on Sunday as a positive person with a passion for the industry.
The Royal Canadian Air Force confirmed that Capt. Jennifer Casey, the team’s public affairs officer from Halifax, N.S., was killed in the crash.
Sarah Van Gilst with Wings Over Springbank Airshow said she knew Casey for about three years, describing her as “sunshine” in an interview with Global News.
“She was a really joyful person to be around,” she said with her voice breaking.
“She was very efficient at her job and had a real passion for the industry. So she kind of got what we always call the air show bug,” Van Gilst said, noting that she expected to see Casey involved for many years to come.
“Once you get involved in this industry, it tends to grab hold of your heartstrings.”
Van Gilst, who has been in the airshow industry since 2008, explained that it is a small, tight-knit community.
“We tend to know each other for a lot of years. Colleagues become friends and friends become family, so it’s hitting us all very personally right now,” she said.
Casey joined the RCAF in 2014 and the Snowbirds in 2018. Before that, she worked as a radio reporter, producer and anchor, according to her biography.
The fatal crash is incredibly tragic and heartbreaking, Van Gilst said.
“Beyond just sort of the [Snowbirds] demonstration team being the teamwork that they are, safety is so important for them. So with something like this happening, it’s really shocking just to think that it could happen this way,” she said.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds were on Operation Inspiration, a cross-country tour to “lift the spirits of Canadians and salute front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Department of National Defence.
“They’re going out there to try and bring some joy and some excitement to people. It’s certainly shaken a lot of us,” Van Gilst said.
The operation has been delayed indefinitely, the department said.
The RCAF said Capt. Richard MacDougall was injured in the crash.
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