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Bird strike suspected as cause of fatal Snowbirds jet crash

A photo released Monday, June 1, 2020 by the Royal Canadian Air Force as part of the investigation into a fatal crash of a Snowbirds jet May 17 shows a bird flying close to the right engine intake.
A photo released Monday, June 1, 2020 by the Royal Canadian Air Force as part of the investigation into a fatal crash of a Snowbirds jet May 17 shows a bird flying close to the right engine intake. - Royal Canadian Air Force

A brief preliminary report on the Snowbirds jet crash that killed Capt. Jennifer Casey says a bird was "in very close proximity" to an engine intake "during the critical phase of take-off."

The five-paragraph report is accompanied by a photo of part of the wreckage, along with a photo of the Tutor jet in flight, with a red circle highlighting a bird close to the plane.

The air demonstration team was on its way on May 17 from Kamploops to Comox, B.C. as part of Operation Inspiration, travelling across Canada to support Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Aircraft CT114161 was #2 of a formation of two CT114 Tutor aircraft," the report said. "Two occupants were on board the aircraft, the pilot and the team’s public affairs officer."


A photo released June 1, 2020 as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force's investigation into the Snowbirds jet crash that killed public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey shows part of the plane's wreckage. - Royal Canadian Air Force
A photo released June 1, 2020 as part of the Royal Canadian Air Force's investigation into the Snowbirds jet crash that killed public affairs officer Capt. Jennifer Casey shows part of the plane's wreckage. - Royal Canadian Air Force


Casey, the public affairs officer and a native of Halifax, was killed in the crash. The plane's pilot, Capt. Richard MacDougall was seriously injured but is recovering. 

"After take-off aircraft CT114161 was observed gaining altitude and departing the formation," the report said. "Shortly thereafter, the aircraft initiated a left turn, followed shortly by an abrupt steep nose low attitude. Both occupants subsequently ejected from the aircraft.

It said a "detailed analysis of video footage recovered for the investigation revealed one bird in very close proximity to the aircraft right engine intake ... during the critical phase of take-off."

It reported that the probe is focusing on the possible bird strike as well as the performance of the plane's escape system.

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