'It was smoky, it was chaotic': Kamloops residents describe Snowbirds crash - InfoNews

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'It was smoky, it was chaotic': Kamloops residents describe Snowbirds crash

Kamloops fire crews attend the scene of the Snowbird crash.
May 19, 2020 - 6:30 PM

Many in Kamloops heard about the Snowbirds plane crash through a phone call, a Tweet, or spotting a plume of smoke in the distance.

For the residents of Glenview Avenue however, the crash on May 17 was all around them.

"It was just a monster explosion,” Kelly Jeffrey said. "I looked, I couldn’t believe it. It was so awful.”

She saw the wreckage of the plane, about six houses down from her own, scattered across the street.

"It was all on fire,” she said. “The smell was very toxic, with all the jet fuel and everything.”

The home hit by the falling plane was in flames, and Jeffrey could smell the vinyl siding burning.

"It was black, it was hot,” she said. "The heat was intense.”

It's been three days since the Snowbirds plane crashed into the Brocklehurst neighbourhood, but residents are still coming to grips with what happened. 

The plane took off from the Kamloops Airport Sunday morning and went down shortly after take-off, hitting a home and catching fire. One person on board the aircraft died, despite being ejected from the plane and another is recovering from non-life-threatening injuries in hospital.

The incident has gained national attention, as the Snowbirds were on a cross-Canada tour to spread hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Aurora Smith heard the Snowbirds overhead, she and her boyfriend rushed out to watch them pass.

“Right when we looked out, we saw the plane go down,” she said. “It looked like it was coming right towards us.”

After seeing the two crew members eject from the plane, Smith’s first thought was that they were being bombed.

"I looked to my left and like the neighbours were grabbing their kids and ducking,” she said.

Smith and her boyfriend grabbed one another and ran towards their house, directly across from the crash site.

"I was trying to get low, I was getting my purse, my phone, I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.

The memorial set up for Capt. Casey spans the fence along Tranquille Road at the Kamloops Airport.
The memorial set up for Capt. Casey spans the fence along Tranquille Road at the Kamloops Airport.

Next door, Patrick MacLeod was in his backyard when he heard the pilots ejecting.

His first thought that it was still part of the show, until he realized they were flying too low.

"I thought it hit our house, because I couldn’t see from the back,” he said. MacLeod ran into the house, yelling for his children to get outside.

The scene that met them on the street was one few will forget.

"Everyone ran out of their houses,” Smith said. “It was smoky, it was chaotic.”

"There must’ve been 800 people in the street and it was just packed,” MacLeod said.

Jeffrey was on the scene, telling everyone to stay away from the burning house and downed power lines.

A woman drove up to Jeffrey with her children in the back, and said her dogs were in the house next to the crash site.

“I’m going to go get my dogs. I don’t even know you, but please look after my kids,” the woman told her.

A paramedic who lives two houses down from the crash site said he was concerned about the number of people who immediately filled the street. He declined to identify himself. 

"Everyone was just flooding in here, and that just made it harder for fire trucks to get to the scene,” he said. "People were driving in here just to look, riding their bikes in here.”

Emergency crews were on the scene within five minutes, with 14 fire department personnel and five apparatus, according to a city release.

The street remained closed to the public for two days, with a portion of Glenview re-opening Tuesday.

Three days since the crash, the community is still shaken.

"Right now it’s really quiet, no one really knows what to do or how to feel,” Smith said.

She tries to keep herself distracted, though every plane overhead serves as a painful reminder.

"I think everybody’s still very rattled,” Jeffrey said. The attention on their street, plus the debris still present around the crash site makes returning to normal a challenge.

Andrea Holt also witnessed the crash. That night she was compelled to start a memorial along the fence at the Kamloops Airport, to show support for Capt. Jenn Casey, who died in the crash, and Capt. Richard MacDougall, who is recovering in hospital.

Holt is devastated by the incident, and wants to support the Snowbirds during such a difficult time.

"All of us are hoping that the fence can be filled and they can see that,” she said. "They inspired us, and hopefully this inspires them somehow.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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