ONE YEAR LATER: Memories of Snowbird crash fresh in minds of Kamloops residents | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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ONE YEAR LATER: Memories of Snowbird crash fresh in minds of Kamloops residents

An ejected seat sat in Rose and Joe Miller's backyard after the Snowbird crash on May 17, 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Rose Miller
May 11, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Residents of a Kamloops neighbourhood are still grappling with the fallout from a Canadian Snowbird plummeting from the sky and crashing through the peace of their everyday lives.

An obvious reminder of the May 17, 2020 crash that killed Capt. Jenn Casey and shocked the nation is 2435 Glenview Ave. Its front yard is where the plane hit the ground, driving about six feet under the earth, sending jet fuel and debris into the nearby area and restoration is ongoing.

On the outside, the home looks like any residential construction site. The siding is removed all around, with Tyvek house wrap covering the burnt portion of wall space. An excavated section of the yard exposes a foundation under construction.

Within, the smell of smoke has dissipated but the charred remnants of the trusses remind the construction crew and homeowners of the very real danger that engulfed the home only a year earlier.

The interior of the home has no drywall or finished flooring. It’s a shell of a home that existed before the street was the centre point of a national tragedy.

The property where the Snowbird landed remains under construction today, May 10, 2021, nearly a year after the plane crashed.
The property where the Snowbird landed remains under construction today, May 10, 2021, nearly a year after the plane crashed.

A less obvious sign of the damage wrought is kept within the memories of those who lived through the experience.

Joe and Rose Miller live across the street and distinctly remember the sound of the jet engine speeding closer to the ground, eventually crashing across the street from them.

“I’ve always wanted excitement in my life, but not like this,” Rose Miller said.

READ MORE: Trauma from Snowbird crash remains for Kamloops neighbourhood long after debris cleared

The Brocklehurst street is within a kilometre of Fulton Field, and for many residents on the block, the sound of aircraft coming down to land is sometimes too close for comfort. Engines or props overhead can shake walls and rattle lights in the Miller home, urging them to watch the skies for fear it could happen again.

“I don’t have trauma, but I think about it all the time,” Rose said, to her husband’s surprise.

Fire crews responding to the crash site on May 17, 2020.
Fire crews responding to the crash site on May 17, 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Rose Miller

“For some stupid reason every time I meet somebody, it’s the first thing I say, ‘I live right by where the airplane crashed,’” she said.

On the day of the Snowbird airshow, May 17, 2020, Rose was looking out her front window ready to watch the air show as Joe, her husband of 60 years, was on his way to join her. She heard a "crack," that she now believes to have been the bird that hit the plane.

It was quickly followed by a "bang" caused by the doomed jet hitting the lawn across the street.

The Millers were right in the middle of the crash, and they feel lucky to have emerged unscathed. The pilots came down in the properties behind them, with one of the ejected seats landing in their backyard, where it remained for two weeks.

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

On May 18, a day after the crash, the tail end of the fallen Snowbird was still on Glenview Avenue.
On May 18, a day after the crash, the tail end of the fallen Snowbird was still on Glenview Avenue.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Rose Miller

A security guard watched the ejected seat from their back patio for three days to be sure it was untouched prior to an investigation — even the Millers could not go near it.

The return of the Snowbirds last week wasn’t just a bittersweet salute for the pilots, it had a similar effect for some Brock residents.

“Last week, planes flew over again and it brought back those memories. It was scary,” Rose said, but they were also glad to see the pilots return.

Gerry Van Der Sman works for Service Master Restore at the home where the Snowbird came down, but he also lives just a block from Glenview Avenue.

He was glad to see the Snowbirds return to salute the city last week, but it was another moment of searching the skies to make sure they were passing safely.

At the home on Glenview, he said the crash shifted the home’s foundation. When the plane hit the ground, it sprayed jet fuel atop the home, burning the roof and walls.

It also put jet fuel deep into the ground, so he said the Department of National Defence sent crews to excavate dirt about six feet below the impact. Foundation walls and floor were removed in the process.

The ground and foundation of the home on Glenview Avenue had to be excavated to remove spilled fuel the seeped into the dirt below.
The ground and foundation of the home on Glenview Avenue had to be excavated to remove spilled fuel the seeped into the dirt below.

READ MORE: Snowbirds stop in Kamloops for a bittersweet greeting

Permits to continue the work only recently came through, he said. So now they are at work to restore the home entirely, inside and out, because of both fire and smoke damage.

iNFOnews.ca could not reach the homeowners for this story.

Snowbirds stopped in Kamloops briefly to salute the city for its support and refuel on their way to training in Comox, on May 4.

"It's an emotional day for us. The team thought it was important to say a little hello to the city while flying to Comox," Canadian Forces Snowbirds spokesperson Capt. Gabriel Ferris said on May 4.

The crash killed pilot Capt. Jenn Casey but also injured Capt. Richard MacDougall.

They were flying as part of Snowbird demonstrations dubbed Operation INSPIRATION, a touring event to salute front-line health-care workers, first responders, and essential workers, but also all Canadians doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

An investigation report concluded that a western tanager bird struck the plane, causing a compressor stall. Then a steep dive after left little time for Capt. Casey's parachute to deploy after the pilots ejected from the plane

A permanent memorial for Capt.  Casey is in the works and yet to be announced by the City of Kamloops.

READ MORE: Final report on deadly Snowbird crash in Kamloops flags pilot actions


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry 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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