British Columbia

Injured Snowbirds pilot honoured with drum circle outside Kamloops hospital

Snowbirds pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall was honoured on Thursday evening with a drum circle outside a Kamloops hospital, where he is recovering from injuries sustained in a crash earlier this week. 

'That healing energy that was given was absolutely powerful and it was incredibly special to be a part of it'

Capt. Richard MacDougall gathered with friends and family in front of a Kamloops hospital on Thursday to watch a drum circle organized by the Secwepemc Child and Family Services Drumming Group. (Jolene August)

Snowbirds pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall was honoured with a drum circle outside a Kamloops hospital on Thursday evening, where he is recovering from injuries sustained in a crash earlier this week. 

MacDougall was seen smiling with family and friends as he sat in a wheelchair outside the Royal Inland Hospital watching drummers and singers from the Secwepemc Child and Family Services Drumming Group.

Iris Jules, an elder from the Adams Lake Indian Band, said almost 40 people performed seven songs as a tribute to MacDougall, health-care workers and for Capt. Jenn Casey, who died in the crash.

She said MacDougall and his family were humbled by the performance.

"He said it lit up his heart. It warmed his heart, because he's going through a lot right now. You could see when we started to sing, when we did the welcome song, you could see it really touched him," said Jules, who gifted MacDougall with a sage pouch and offered her own words of encouragement. 

"I said continue to use your wings, because that's what the Creator gave you, is those wings to fly."

MacDougall, 34, suffered serious injuries when he ejected from his plane and landed on a roof in a residential area near the Kamloops Airport on May 17.

MacDougall and passenger Capt. Jenn Casey had just taken off from the airport to continue the Snowbirds' cross-country tour to lift Canadians' spirits, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Heidi Coleman, CEO of the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation, said the drum circle brought the hospital to a standstill and offered a moment of hope during a difficult week. 

"It was beautiful to see all that happen for Capt. MacDougall and it was also beautiful for health-care workers," she said.

"Doctors came by, the doors were opened, the lab opened its doors, people stood there. At one point, everyone had their arm up in a salute to him. It was just beautiful."

The performance was another example of the outpouring of support the Royal Canadian Air Force has received from the community of Kamloops over the past week, said Lt. Alexandra Hejduk, a public affairs officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Community members have created a memorial with messages of condolences for Capt. Casey that stretches almost a kilometre near the airport, organized barbecues with physical distancing, and someone even paid for a Snowbirds member's dinner one evening, she said. 

It's made a dark week a little bit brighter, she added. "I really appreciate the reach-out from our First Nations to be sharing their culture and their healing with us," Hejduk said.

"That healing energy that was given was absolutely powerful and it was incredibly special to be a part of it, for all of us."

Almost 40 people performed seven songs as a tribute to MacDougall, health-care workers and for Capt. Jenn Casey, who died in the crash. MacDougall was invited into the drum circle. (Jolene August)

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