Two Canadian Forces personnel, including a member of the Snowbirds aerobatic team, were killed Thursday in the crash of a military jet at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, an airbase in southwest Saskatchewan.
Officials said the two were the pilot and a photographer. No names have been released, and no cause determined.
Maj. Rob Mitchell, commander of the Snowbirds aerobatic team, said in an interview from San Francisco that the pilot was a member of the team.
Eyewitnesses told CBC News that they saw a large cloud of black smoke above the base around 1 p.m. CT on Thursday.
The plane, a Tutor CT-114, was a spare aircraft associated with the world-renowned aerobatic team. The Snowbirds themselves are performing Friday and Saturday in San Francisco, according to their website.
At a briefing at the base Thursday afternoon, Col. Paul Keddy told reporters the pilot and photographer were in the air taking pictures of three other planes when the accident occurred.
The other planes were not involved in the crash.
'It was going closer and closer to the ground and I said well, it's gonna hit the ground' —Eyewitness Ronald Alix
Ronald Alix, a farmer from Coderre, Sask., told CBC News he saw the crash as he was driving into Moose Jaw for a medical appointment.
"I was looking south, and there was three planes in the sky, and there was this other one coming from the south heading north," Alix said. "There was a whole bunch of smoke behind it and it was going closer and closer to the ground and I said well, it's gonna hit the ground. Sure enough, it went and crashed on the ground."
Alix said he phoned 911 right away.
Grant Noble, a rural resident in the area, said emergency vehicles were quick to arrive at the scene.
"I can still see about a dozen out there, and probably a couple dozen of people walking around out there," Noble said from a vantage point not far from the base. "Fire trucks, police cars, dark-coloured military vehicles."
Keddy said an investigation of the crash will be carried out by a flight safety team from the base and military officials from Ottawa.
Keddy also spoke about the emotional toll the crash has taken on the military community.
'Our thoughts and prayers go out to the members of the families' —Col. Paul Keddy,15 Wing Moose Jaw
"The members of 15 Wing, as well, have come together closely over the last several hours to try and piece this together and to respond the best we can, keeping in mind, the needs and the sensitivities of the families," Keddy said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the members of the families."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who's running for re-election next week, spoke briefly about the crash from the campaign trail in Winnipeg.
"I've met most of the members of the Snowbird team, so this is quite upsetting for all of us," Harper said Thursday evening.
"I just want to convey my sincere condolences to their colleagues and their family, and they should remind us all of the great dangers our men and women in uniform do accept on our behalf."