Pilot killed after U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crashes outside Nashville

Courtesy Zach Kent

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

The F/A-18 aircraft crashed around 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 U.S. Navy confirmed the pilot died in the crash. While military officials have not identified the pilot, the Associated Press said it is Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss.

Marine Capt. Jeff KusCourtesy: U.S. Navy Blue Angels)
Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss; courtesy U.S. Navy Blue Angels

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.

PHOTOS: U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crash

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

The investigation will be led by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. military.

The flight team will no longer participate in the Great Tennessee Airshow in the wake of the pilot’s death.

“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,” Admiral John Richardson, chief of Naval Operations, said.

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.

“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 said.

Witness Paula Payne said the jet sounded louder than normal shorty before the crash.

“I looked out the window and heard the planes maneuvering again. I looked out the window and saw one straight out here come down, hit the ground and explode,” Payne said.

Becca Burgess said she had been hearing the jets all day and noticed one was flying particularly low.

“I looked up and saw it coming down and I thought maybe they were doing dips … Then I saw a huge ball of orange fire, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, he’s crashed,’” she explained. “I cried. I mean, the first thought was fear for the pilot.”

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