A Canadian Armed Forces Snowbird plane participating in a cross-country tour aimed at boosting the morale of Canadians struggling with the pandemic crashed Sunday in the Pacific coast province of British Columbia after the pilot ejected.
The Department of National Defense confirmed the crash and the Kamloops Airport said emergency crews were responding. The pilot's condition was unknown.
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said one person was in the hospital after paramedics and air ambulances responded to the crash.
The Snowbirds are Canada’s equivalent of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels. Kamloops is about 320 km (200 miles) northeast of Vancouver.
Video posted to Twitter by 6:10 a.m. in Kamloops appears to show two Snowbirds taking off from what is believed to have been Kamloops Airport. One of the aircraft subsequently climbed into the sky before rolling over and plunging to the ground. The video appears to show at least one person ejecting from the plane before it disappears behind a stand of trees and an explosion is heard.
A photo posted by Kamloops television station CFJC showed at least one house on fire in the Brocklehurst area of Kamloops, a city with a population of more than 90,000.
The air force confirmed on Twitter that one of its Snowbirds had crashed near Kamloops, but gave no details.
“Our number one priority at this time is determining the status of our personnel, the community and supporting emergency personnel. When appropriate, more information will be made available,” the Department of National Defence said in a statement.
Operation Inspiration started in Nova Scotia earlier this month and features the team’s signature nine-jet formation. It was aimed at boosting morale amid the pandemic.
Sunday’s crash follows the downing of another Snowbird in the U.S. state of Georgia last October, where the team was scheduled to perform in an air show. Capt. Kevin Domon-Grenier sustained minor injuries when he ejected from the plane, which crashed into a farmer’s field. No one else was hurt.
The Snowbirds have performed at airshows across Canada and the U.S. for decades and are considered a key tool for raising awareness about – and recruiting for – the air force. Eleven aircraft are used during shows, with nine flying and two kept as spares.