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Canada in mourning: Captain killed in Snowbirds crash remembered for infectious smile, overall kindness

Last Updated May 18, 2020 at 11:41 am PDT

A photo of Jenn Casey while she was working as a producer with NEWS 95.7

Former colleagues of Captain Jennifer Casey remember her for her kindness and driver as a former journalist

Casey worked in broadcast as a radio reporter, producer, and anchor before joining the military

Captain Richard MacDougall was seriously hurt in the Snowbirds crash on Sunday in Kamloops

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) – Condolences are pouring in from across the country for the woman killed in Sunday’s Snowbirds crash in Kamloops.

Captain Jennifer Casey was the Public Affairs Officer for the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. The Halifax native joined the military in 2014 after spending several years working as a journalist, working for some time in broadcast as a radio producer, reporter, and anchor, at NEWS 95.7 — our sister station.

“One of the things I remember about her is that she was one of the very first people to ever reach out to me and sort of welcome me to the community,” Dan Ahlstrand, News Director of NEWS 95.7, recalls of his first interactions with Casey when he first joined the station. “She was from the area, she was very proud of being from Halifax, and she gave me the insiders’ tour of places to go and things to see outside of the regular tourist things.”

Many tributes to Casey say she had a great smile and that she always lit up a room when she walked in — things Ahlstrand says describe her “to a T.”

“I call it an infectious smile, she always seemed to have a smile on her face. She was bright, she was a great journalist, very family-oriented, she loved her family, she loved her friends, she was an organizer — she liked to organize social gatherings and those kind of things,” he recalls, adding Casey was always a fun person to be around.

“But that smile is certainly what I’ll remember most about her.”

Others who spent time working with Casey say she always “jumped right in to the community” and would always be involved.

“When she walked into a room, she just made you smile,” Tim Durkin, who worked with Casey at Quinte Broadcasting in Bellville, Ontario, says, adding she was a “great friend.”

Casey joined the CF Snowbirds in 2018 after her stint as a journalist.

She was aboard the flight that crashed on Sunday with Captain Richard MacDougall, who was piloting. The CF Snowbirds’ had been doing a cross-country tour called Operation Inspiration, which was meant to help boost the morale of Canadians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahlstrand says he spoke with her just weeks ago when the flyover was announced.

“Distance does that, we weren’t in close communication, but if you just take a look at her social media feeds, you can see that she certainly was enjoying her time and posting all kinds of pictures and things with the Snowbirds,” he says. “I talked to her a couple weeks ago when the operation that they were on was announced and that they were coming out here to Nova Scotia to start their fly-overs and it was just the same old Jenn. She was very, very full of life, and very accommodating … Every time she came to town, she would pop by the station and say hello. She was just one of those people — she left a lasting impression on people and certainly has left a lasting impression on me.”

He says news of her passing was “devastating.”

Memorial grows at Kamloops Airport for fallen Snowbird

A memorial is now growing outside of the Kamloops Airport, with people leaving flowers, hearts, and messages for Casey along some fencing by a runway.

People have been coming to the memorial site, standing in silence and reflecting on the tragedy that struck.

“I actually had a moment yesterday with a young woman by the airport fence where the memorial was, and she was probably about half my age — maybe late teens, early 20s — you know what she said? She said, ‘You know, I grew up watching them.’ And I realized at that moment that I also had grown up watching them, so it’s just a lot of reflective warmfulness at the moment,” David Zura with CityNews Vancouver explains.

Investigators head to Interior B.C.

It’s still unclear what caused the aircraft to go down, but investigators are arriving in B.C.’s interior to figure out the cause of the crash.

The Canadian Armed Forces are in charge of the investigation, and the Transportation Safety Board has said it has not been asked to assist at this time.

Videos posted online Sunday show the plane take-off alongside another Snowbirds jet before veering away and suddenly nosediving into a residential neighborhood, causing a loud explosion and sending smoke billowing into the air.

Captain MacDougall was seriously hurt when the plane went down, but the Armed Forces says his injuries are not life threatening.

The tragedy has hit the Kamloops community hard, with Mayor Ken Christian saying on Sunday that his community is a “military town, so this accident today really shakes us to our core. But we will respond to it in every way that we can to support the Canadian military as well as the women and men in service.”

Two homes caught on fire after the crash, but no one else was hurt.

The Snowbirds, which landed in Kamloops on Saturday, are grounded until further notice, with Operation Inspiration now “delayed indefinitely,” according to Canada’s Department of National Defence.

With files from Lisa Steacy, Paul James, and The Canadian Press