A plane from Canada’s Snowbirds, an elite air force aerobatics team, crashed on Sunday in British Columbia during a performance to salute public efforts against the coronavirus, the military said. The accident left one pilot dead and another with serious injuries. According to local media, the plane crashed into the front yard of a house shortly after taking off from Kamloops Airport late Sunday morning along with one other plane.

In a statement Royal Canadian Air Force tweeted, “It is with heavy hearts that we announce that one member of the CF Snowbirds team has died and one has sustained serious injuries. We can confirm that we have contacted all primary family members of those involved.”

Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix tweeted that one person had been taken to hospital. “The #RCAF has been made aware that a Canadian Forces Snowbirds aircraft crashed in the vicinity of Kamloops, BC,” the Royal Canadian Air Force tweeted, without giving further details.

Later the RCAF announced that one of their members Captain Jennifer Casey died in the plane crash, while another member,Captain Richard MacDougall sustained some injuries.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his statement said, “I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one Canadian Armed Forces member, Captain Jennifer Casey, and one injured, Captain Richard MacDougall, in today’s Snowbirds aircraft crash in Kamloops, British Columbia.

“Our thoughts are with the families of Captain Casey and Captain MacDougall, as well as the entire Canadian Forces Snowbirds team, as they grieve this terrible loss. I would also like to thank the emergency personnel in Kamloops who responded so quickly to this tragic incident.

“For the past two weeks, the Snowbirds have been flying across the country to lift up Canadians during these difficult times. Every day, they represent the very best of Canada and demonstrate excellence through incredible skill and dedication. Their flyovers across the country put a smile on the faces of Canadians everywhere and make us proud.”

Photos from the crash scene appeared to show debris burning in front of a house, part of which was also on fire. Public broadcaster the CBC quoted a witness, Nolyn Mcleod, as saying the plane passed about three meters (yards) over his roof.

“We saw the pilot eject like maybe two storeys high, and then the plane with no pilot in it went right between me and my neighbor’s house,” before finally hitting the neighbor’s bedroom window, he said.

“It was complete chaos. People were yelling and screaming. We thought we were getting bombed or something. That’s how hectic it was.”

The two planes were scheduled to fly over British Columbia as part of a tour dubbed “Operation Inspiration,” launched earlier this month to pay tribute to Canadians’ efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Snowbirds’ signature nine-jet formation, with trailing white smoke, began its tour in Nova Scotia and was to perform aerial displays over cities from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, at elevations as low as 500 feet (150 meters).

(With inputs from AFP)