A heartfelt memorial to fallen Snowbirds team member Capt. Jenn Casey has appeared underneath the Snowbird plane at Tourism Moose Jaw, covering the base of the display with flowers and well-wishes for both Snowbirds involved in Sunday’s fatal crash.
Capt. Casey, public affairs officer for the aerobatic team, was killed in a crash in Kamloops, B.C. on May 17, during the team’s Operation Inspiration tour across Canada. Snowbird pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall also sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the incident and is now recovering.
Canadians across the country certainly felt the loss following the fatal crash, especially those in Moose Jaw where the Snowbirds call home at 15 Wing airbase just south of the city.
The first flowers appeared at the base of the decommissioned Tutor jet on Sunday evening, which soon turned into a flood of flowers and signs left for Capt. Casey and Capt. MacDougall in the wake of the tragedy.
Tourism staff were already discussing laying flowers at the base of the jet when, after heading out to lower the Canadian flag to half-mast for Capt. Casey, they realized that Moose Jaw was already paying their respects.
The impromptu memorial has only grown since Sunday and is expected to continue to do so as more people find the need to grieve the devastating loss.
“I think people need a place to connect to a tragedy, and having the Tutor right here seems to be a logical option,” said tourism executive director Jacki L’Heureux-Mason.
She expects to see many more people stop by the memorial, to both grieve and offer condolences, especially with the limitations on public gatherings in place.
“It’s something important for people to have a place to spend a moment, to pay their respects to Jenn and also give some well-wishes to Capt. MacDougall as well,” said L’Heureux-Mason.
L’Heureux-Mason was touched by the immediate response from the community, although it wasn't exactly surprising given that the Snowbirds have such deep ties with the local community.
“People still line the streets when they're out practicing, and so when something like this happens, I think we all feel very much so like its part of our family that this happened to,” said L’Heureux-Mason.
Tourism Moose Jaw is already looking at ways to make the memorial more permanent, possibly by planting the flowers in Crescent Park or creating a living memorial of trees to honour all eight of the Snowbird pilots who have died in the past 50 years.
“They are out there doing something amazing for us, to risk their lives for something that brings this country together. I think it's noble, and it's also a little awe-inspiring too,” said L’Heureux-Mason.
An investigation of the crash is underway by a Royal Canadian Air Force Flight Safety team, said representatives during a press conference at 15 Wing Moose Jaw on May 18, and more details are expected to be released in the coming weeks.