Member of Canada air force aerobatics team dies in plane crash

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One member of Canada’s Snowbirds, an elite air force aerobatics team, died and another was injured Sunday after their plane crashed in British Columbia during a performance to salute public efforts against the coronavirus, the military said.

According to local media, the plane crashed into the front yard of a house shortly after taking off from Kamloops Airport late Sunday morning along with one other plane.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce that one member of the CF Snowbirds team has died and one has sustained serious injuries,” the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) tweeted Sunday night.

They then updated the tweet, saying that the surviving member of the crash suffered injuries that “are not considered life threatening.”

Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix had tweeted earlier that one person had been taken to hospital.

Witnesses said the pilot managed to eject from the plane with a parachute before the crash. The pilot landed on the roof of a house and appeared to have suffered back and neck injuries.

In a video taken by a passer-by, the burning wreckage of the plane can be seen in front of a house. Neighbors gathered outside to try and figure out what happened.

Photos from the crash scene also appeared to show debris burning in front of a house, part of which was on fire.

“The one plane continued, and the other one… was a ball of fire,” witness Annette Schonewille told Radio Canada.

“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.”

Public broadcaster CBC quoted another witness, Nolyn Mcleod, as saying the plane passed about three meters (yards) over his roof.

“We saw the pilot eject like maybe two storeys high, and then the plane with no pilot in it went right between me and my neighbor’s house,” before finally hitting the neighbor’s bedroom window, he said.

“It was complete chaos. People were yelling and screaming. We thought we were getting bombed or something. That’s how hectic it was.”

The two planes were scheduled to fly over British Columbia as part of a tour dubbed “Operation Inspiration,” launched earlier this month to pay tribute to Canadians’ efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Snowbirds’ signature nine-jet formation, with trailing white smoke, began its tour in Nova Scotia and was to perform aerial displays over cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, at elevations as low as 500 feet (150 meters). (AFP)

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