A pilot was killed in the fiery crash of a Blue Angels jet Thursday during what was supposed to be a routine practice session for an upcoming air show.
The U.S. Navy’s elite demonstration squadron was rehearsing its jaw-dropping formations when the pilot, identified as USMC Capt. Jeff Kuss from Durango, Colorado, crashed into a residential area in Smyrna, Tennessee. There were no reports of civilian injuries on the ground.
He was credited with maneuvering his F/A-18 fighter jet away from homes as he crashed after taking off, according to local reports.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the Blue Angels after this tragic loss. I know that the Navy and Marine Corps Team is with me. We will investigate this accident fully and do all we can to prevent similar incidents in the future," said the Navy's top officer, Adm. John Richardson, in a Facebook post.
Kuss, 32, joined the squad in September 2014 and had more than 1,400 flight hours, military authorities said. He is survived by his wife, Christina, and two children.
The remaining five Blue Angel jets landed safely, the military said. The crash occurred about two miles from the runway.
DETAILS: Blue Angels were practicing for air show scheduled for this weekend in Smyrna prior to deadly crash. pic.twitter.com/pnNLBnvXPU— NewsChannel 5 (@NC5) June 2, 2016
The team was preparing for the Great Tennessee Air Show scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. The Blue Angels have cancelled their performances there, the Navy announced late Thursday.
The crash took out several power lines and ignited several small fires, local authorities said. It was the first Blue Angels crash in nearly 10 years.
A huge fireball could be seen at the crash site, witnesses said.
“It sounded like a car crashed into my house,” said resident Jennifer Elliott, The Tennessean reported. “Everything shook.”
Rebecca Durand was in her car and saw the fighter jet go down nose-first, she told the paper. At first, she thought it was a stunt.
“Instead, I just saw this big orange explosion,” she told the paper.