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'Such complete devastation': Witnesses describe fatal Snowbirds crash in Kamloops

Last Updated May 18, 2020 at 3:01 am EDT

First responders attend to a person on a rooftop at the scene of a crash involving a Canadian Forces Snowbirds airplane in Kamloops, British Columbia, Sunday, May 17, 2020. (Brendan Kergin/Castanet Kamloops/The Canadian Press via AP)

One member of the CF Snowbirds has died, one has been seriously injured in Kamloops crash

RCMP say the plane crashed into a residence at 11:42 a.m. 

Two witnesses describe what they saw in Kamloops to NEWS 1130

Editor’s note: This article contains a video with offensive language. Reader discretion is advised.

KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) — Kash Dhaliwal is shaken and sad, but relieved his wife and daughters weren’t with him when he witnessed a fatal crash of a CF Snowbirds jet Sunday.

“I will not forget this particular event. It’s such a tragic, sad day to see the Snowbirds crash like that,” he says.

“I said to my daughter, ‘I’m glad you guys did not actually witness this.’ I would not want them to be scarred with this.”

RCMP say the plane crashed into a residence on Glenview Avenue at 11:42 a.m.

The Royal Canadian Air Force has confirmed that one member has died.

The surviving member is seriously injured, but the Royal Canadian Air Force says those injuries are not life-threatening.

‘Such complete devastation’

On Saturday, Dhaliwal’s whole family watched the military planes fly over the Shuswap, toward Kamloops, as part of Operation Inspiration –their nation-wide salute to “Canadians doing their part to fight the spread of COVID-19.”

“You just have to think how tragic it is … What an uplifting experience Saturday was, to such complete devastation Sunday,” he says.

He planned to shoot some video to send to his wife, a “Snowbirds fan,” and kids Sunday. Instead, he found himself among a crowd of people who witnessed the crash and rushed to the site to help.

“You see it start to climb, and it’s going up and all of a sudden it starts to come back down, spiralling, and you see a couple puffs of smoke,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“It went straight down. You could hear it and see it go down and you can see the plume of smoke come up. I was shaken, shaken from it. Very sad.”

He quickly realized the plane had gone down in a residential neighbourhood — near where he grew up and where his sister-in-law now lives.

“It’s like, ‘Okay, it’s gone into a residential neighbourhood. Can I go there? Can I try to help? Is there anything I can do?”

When he arrived, he saw crowds who had gathered in the neighbourhood to watch the fly-over, and others like him who wanted to try to assist in the aftermath.

“We happened to see a commotion going on on the roof of a house and a neighbour carrying a ladder over, an aluminum extension ladder over so he could get onto the roof,” Dhaliwal says, adding he could see a parachute and an injured man in a pilot’s uniform

The pilot was taken to hospital. The other person in the plane passed away.

“You just have to think how tragic it is for that family of the person who died, for the whole snowbird family, and the military.”

According to Dhaliwal, an elderly couple lives in the home and got out safely.

‘When you see someone needs help like that, you definitely have to go over and give it a shot’

Cory Pelton, also witnessed the crash.

He was shooting a video of the fly-over and filmed the plane going down.

He tells NEWS 1130 what he saw.

“They took off and it looked perfectly normal. The one jet kind of flew away from the other jet, it just looked like they were kind of putting on a show or whatever. I’ve never really seen fighter pilots, so I didn’t know what they were doing,” he says.

“It did a complete left-hand barrel roll and pointed straight towards the ground and even after they ejected. I don’t think anyone realized what had really happened.”

Pelton says as soon as he realized the plane had crashed, he stopped filming and jumped in his car.

“That’s not something anyone wants to have to deal with. But when you see someone needs help like that, you definitely have to go over and give it a shot,” he explains.

He also says the people who live in the home got out safely.

“It’s horrible, I wish I didn’t have that on video. I kind of wish I didn’t have to see that to be honest with you, but more importantly, I think of [any] families [affected.]”

With files from David Zura