An Ontario junior hockey team is honouring a member of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds this week with a Vancouver Island connection.
The Trenton Golden Hawks are changing their name and uniform for one game on Nov. 27 as they become the Trenton Snowbirds to honour Capt. Jennifer Casey who died in May in a fatal Canadian Forces Snowbirds crash in Kamloops.
Casey, who lived in Trenton from 2012 to 2018, was in a CT-114 Tutor piloted by Capt. Richard MacDougall when it veered skyward before nose-diving to the ground en route to Comox as part of Operation Inspiration – a salute to Canadians who are doing their part to fight the spread of COVID-19.
MacDougall and Casey ejected from the plane just before impact. MacDougall suffered serious injuries but survived. A preliminary report by the released Canadian Forces noted in reviewing video footage, a bird was in close proximity to the aircraft’s right engine intake during the post-take-off phase.
As the public affairs officer for the Snowbirds, it was Casey’s duty to arrange all pilot interviews, suggest features, and keep the public informed on important dates regarding the aerobatics team and narrate their shows over the public address system.
She was a regular fixture the past few years at CFB Comox as the Snowbirds regularly returned to the Comox Valley in the spring for their annual training. Prior to the Snowbirds, Casey spent time in a similar role with the CF-18 Demo Team which also trained in the Valley.
At the time of her death, Col. Dany Poitras, Wing Commander at 19 Wing Comox noted there is a special relationship with the Comox Valley and the 431 Air Demonstration Squadron (Snowbirds).
“Every year the members of our community look forward to the Snowbirds training at Comox. Each spring the team takes up residence here, and the distinctive red and white jets can be seen in the skies near 19 Wing. Those who attended the final practice last year enjoyed Captain Casey’s energetic and professional voice calling the aerobatic manoeuvres,” he said.
The Trenton ‘Snowbirds’ will wear a special red, white and blue jersey for Friday’s game, reflective of the squadron’s colours. Each jersey will have the name Casey on the back, along with the players’ designated number. After the game, the jerseys will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to charity. Special guests will be appearing by video, with political and military dignitaries dropping the puck for the game.
The game is set for 1:30 EST and can be watched online at hockeytv.com.