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Canadian air force pilot dies after jet crashes during coronavirus tribute

NBC News logo NBC News 5/18/2020 Tim Stelloh and Caitlin Fichtel
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A Canadian air force pilot died Sunday after a jet crashed into a British Columbia home during a celebration for front-line workers in the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said.

The Royal Canadian Air Force said in a statement that another pilot was seriously injured in the incident, which occurred in Kamloops, northeast of Vancouver. Additional details about the pilots weren't immediately available.

The flight was part of Operation Inspiration, a nationwide mission aimed at saluting first responders and other essential workers. The Snowbirds are a military acrobatics squadron based in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

A video that appeared to capture the crash showed two jets taking off and flying side by side for a few seconds. One of them veers into the sky and seconds later is seen spiraling toward the ground.

Kamloops Airport, just west of the city, said in a tweet that emergency crews were responding.

Kerri Turatus, 30, who lives in the neighborhood where the plane went down, said the aircraft hit a house, engulfing it in flames.

It "sounded like a gunshot outside my window," Turatus said.

She saw a "big black circle ring of smoke" in the sky, she said, adding that part of the plane's wreckage was in the street and that she could see a wing sticking out of a neighbor's garage. Photos showed the structure on fire.

It wasn't clear whether anyone was home. The city of Kamloops later confirmed that the jet struck the house.

In a tweet, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he'd be in touch with the country's defense minister, Harjit Sajjan, about the crash. "My thoughts are with the brave members" of the Royal Canadian Air Force, he said.

Operation Inspiration, which was announced April 29, began in Nova Scotia, on the country's east coast.

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