Pilot killed after U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crashes in Smyrna

SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – A pilot was killed after a U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crashed Thursday afternoon in Smyrna ahead of the Great Tennessee Airshow this weekend.

The F/A-18 Hornet crashed at 3 p.m. behind the Sam Davis Home, about 2 miles from the runway, while practicing for the now-cancelled demonstration. Authorities arrived within minutes.

The pilot who lost his life was Marine Captain Jeff Kuss, confirmed by the Blue Angels one day after the crash during a media briefing.

PHOTOS: U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crash

Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss (Courtesy: WKRG)
Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss (Courtesy: WKRG)

According to the Blue Angels, Capt. Kuss is a native of Durango, Colorado. He joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and has accumulated more than 1,400 flight hours and 175 carrier-arrested landings.

His decorations include the Strike Flight Air Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various personal and unit awards.

The other five Blue Angel jets were not involved in the incident and landed safely moments later.

The investigation into the crash will be led by the U.S. military.

RAW VIDEO: Onlookers capture moments of Blue Angels crash

A vigil was held Thursday night at Lee Victory Recreation Park, which is across from the airport on Sam Ridley Parkway. Those who attended were asked to bring American flags and candles.

News 2 learned the flight team will no longer participate in the Great Tennessee Airshow being held at the Smyra airport this weekend in the wake of the pilot’s death.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

Friday’s previously scheduled lecture by the Blue Angels on the MTSU campus has also been cancelled. However, representatives from the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team are still scheduled to appear.

The rest of the airshow will go on as scheduled, although officials with the Smyrna airport say they deeply saddened by the devastating accident.

“Show management has discussed the relative advantages and disadvantages of continuing the show. After close consultation with the Blue Angels, regulatory officials and the performers, we have made the decision to carry on with this weekend’s show,” said John Black, Executive Director of the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport.

Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations said Thursday, “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.”

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said she was shocked and saddened to learn of the pilot’s death just hours after they flew over downtown Nashville.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

“The Blue Angels have served to inspire and instill national pride in men, women, and children throughout our country. I have ordered the Metro Courthouse and Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge to be lit yellow and blue tomorrow night in honor of the life and service of this brave pilot,” Mayor Barry continued.

Senator Bob Corker also released a statement, saying,”My prayers are with the Blue Angels and the family of Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss. We are forever grateful for his service at home and abroad.”

The ICAS Foundation has established a Captain Jeff Kuss Family Fund for those wishing to help support his family. People can donate at www.icasfoundation.org.

Family members in Colorado also set up a GoFundMe for Kuss’ wife and two children. Click here to donate.

RELATED: Blue Angels pilot killed in crash flew with Calif. reporter in October

Around 1,300 people were without power after the jet reportedly clipped some power lines during the crash, which also caused small “burn areas,” according to Smyrna Fire Chief Bill Culbertson. Power was restored after about an hour.

News 2 learned Hunter Hayes was set to fly with the Blue Angels on Thursday. His publicist said the crash happened right in front of them, but he was not injured.

Our own Samantha Fisher flew with the flight team on Wednesday ahead of their performance at the Great Tennessee Airshow on June 4 and 5.

Another military jet crashed in Colorado on Thursday after flying over the Air Force Academy’s graduation. In that case, the pilot was able to eject from the plane ahead of the accident.

Click here for complete coverage of the Blue Angels crash.

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