Colorado native killed in Blue Angels jet crash

Posted at 4:57 PM, Jun 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-03 00:37:21-04

The pilot killed in a Blue Angels jet crash during a practice flight just south of Nashville, Tenn., is from the city of Durango, our Scripps sister station WTVF-TV has confirmed.

Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed when his plane crashed near the Smyrna Bowling Center around 3 p.m. Thursday. That's about 30 miles southeast of the city of Nashville. 

U.S. Navy officials said all six Blue Angels aircrafts were practicing for an air show when the F/A 18-hornet Blue Angels aircraft crashed shortly after take off.

The five other aircrafts were in the air at the time of the crash. They landed safely moments after. 

A woman told WTVF-TV that all of a sudden one of the planes flew by very close, then took a nose toward the ground.

She said the explosion was very powerful and that it could be felt in the ground and in her car.

Other witnesses who saw Kuss' plane go down said he's a hero because they believe it looked like he stayed in the jet instead of ejecting in order to avoid neighborhoods.

"That man is a hero. And absolute hero. He went down with that plane when apparently he could have ejected," said a witness in Smyrna, Tenn.

The jet went down in a large field near an elementary school in Smyrna.

"The Navy is deeply saddened by the loss of this service member. We extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the family of the pilot, and those he served with," said an official with the U.S. Navy, adding the military branch would conduct an investigation into the cause of the crash. 

The president of Fort Lewis College in Durango tweeted the following: 

"We are devastated to hear about Captain Kuss.This is a difficult day for the Fort Lewis College family. Capt. Kuss will always be a Skyhawk, and we are very proud of what he accomplished in his career. Our thoughts are with his family and friends," said Mitchell B. Davis, a college spokesman. 

Kuss joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and had 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.

He was also part of the Super Bowl 50 flyover in Santa Clara, Calif., on Feb. 7, 2016. 

Kuss had always had a fascination with jets and learned to fly in Durango, soloing a Cessna 152 when he was just 15-years-old, according to The Durango Herald

He was interviewed on Blue Angel safety measures after a pilot died in a crash in South Carolina.

“We do what's called like a crawl, walk, run mentality where we start out very basic levels and it progresses and progresses until eventually it's a flight demonstration in the form of an air show that you can deliver as a safe, homogenous product all over the country. It's all going to be relatively similar,” said Kuss.

Before today, there have been 26 Blue Angel pilots killed at air shows or training exercises. The most recent death was in 2007 when Lt. Cmdr Kevin Davis was killed in a crash at Beaufort, South Carolina.

The Blue Angels made their first appearance 70 years ago on May 10, 1946. 

Kuss leaves behind a wife and two young children, according to WTVF-TV.


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