Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss mourned by Smyrna community
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  1. #1
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    Exclamation Blue Angels pilot Jeff Kuss mourned by Smyrna community

    Six elite military jets of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight team roared over Middle Tennessee on Thursday, but the cheers from fans on the ground in just hours turned to wails.

    “Oh no, no, no, God bless his soul.”

    Pilot Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed Thursday when his jet crashed at 3:01 p.m. just off Smyrna Airport, a U.S. official told the Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Kuss and five of his colleagues in matching blue jets were in the air practicing for the Great Tennessee Airshow this weekend.


    The fatal crash was the first in nearly a decade involving the Navy’s acrobatic performance jets, whose flights are meant to showcase pride in the military. Local and federal investigators rushed to the scene looking for the cause. The community mourned the 32-year-old pilot, husband and father of two.


    The crash occurred the same day as another military performance plane, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird, crashed near Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado after a flyover during a graduation ceremony. That pilot was not injured.

    In Smyrna, Belinda McGriff and her granddaughter were walking to their home on Mingle Street after watching the acts in the airshow practice. The six-in-formation Blue Angels screamed through the cloudy but blue skies before two jets split off.

    “And we seen a Blue Angel come down real low behind the trees on the other side of Sam Davis (Road), and then boom,” McGriff said. “A big, big billow of fire came up.

    “We could feel the heat off of it, we were that close.”

    Her granddaughter recorded the fireball of orange and chimney of black smoke that rose from behind a line of trees. Four of the jets screamed by the smoke. The other pilots landed safely, Navy officials said.


    The video captured the horror:

    “No.”

    “Oh guys watch out.”

    “Oh no, no, no, God bless his soul,” McGriff’s voice says.

    According to the Blue Angels website, Kuss was from Durango, Colo., and graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2006. He joined the Blue Angels in September 2014 and had flown more than 1,400 hours, about 150 hours more than is required to join the elite flying team.

    He had served in Afghanistan before joining the Blue Angels.

    "It's hard to put into words right now, but it's beautiful that a person can live and die engaged in their life's pursuits," said his grandfather, Dolph Kuss, reached at his home in Durango. "This was his dream since he was a child, to be an aviator, a flier."

    He choked back tears and said he was struggling to gather his thoughts.

    "It's hard to celebrate someone's life in this way," he said. "It is certainly a shock. Everything in life has its dangers, I guess."

    The crash shook the community. After nightfall, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil for Kuss at Smyrna’s Lee Victory Park.


    Rick Tomlin, a Navy veteran, passed small American flags to residents. Tomlin said he broke down when he lowered his own flag at home to half-staff.

    "I love these guys and watch them every time they come," he said with tears in his eyes.

    "Heaven gained a true angel today."

    The Navy said in statements late Thursday afternoon that the Blue Angels’ F/A-18 jet was taking off from Smyrna Airport when it crashed about two miles from the runway. The Navy and Federal Aviation Administration launched investigations of the crash.

    "The Navy is deeply saddened by the loss of this service member," a statement from the Naval Air Forces reads. "We extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the family of the pilot, and those he served with."

    The crash site was marked by black char, yellow police tape and flashing emergency lights of first responders. Helicopters buzzed overhead.

    Five aircraft of the flight demonstration squadron sat on the runway nearby.

    Kuss’ plane was number 6.

    It went down in a field surrounded by homes and history, about 100 yards from the Civil War-era Sam Davis Home and Plantation. Smyrna Fire Chief Bill Culbertson said power lines brought down by the jet created several smaller fires.

    In the aftermath, an 8-acre area around the site was closed off. The Blue Angels said they would not perform in the airshow, though the show was still scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

    The Blue Angels are scheduled to fly 66 demonstrations in 34 cities throughout the nation this year, which is the team's 70th anniversary year.

    Thursday morning, the flight formation soared overtop downtown Nashville tracing the skyline with lines of white contrail.

    “Love.” “Very cool!” “An amazing experience,” Nashvillians posted on social media.

    That awe spread to Smyrna as the formation began practices there Thursday afternoon. Several Rutherford County residents said the roar of the powerful planes became routine Thursday.

    Until the boom.

    Monica Hosford, who works at Cutting Edge hair salon on Sam Davis Road, has lived in Smyrna for 40 years. She remembered people gathering to watch past airshows from rooftops and parking lots.

    “This is very personal,” she said, calling the airshow a big draw for the area.

    Jennifer Elliott was in her yard watching the Blue Angels practice. She went inside and felt the explosion at their house, which is about a mile from the Smyrna Airport.

    ”It sounded like a car crashed into my house,” she said.

    “Everything shook.”

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  2. #2
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    RIP Sir !


  3. #3
    They were just here for the air show in Knoxville last month (did not go cause saw plenty of them over the years). Capt Kuss was interviewed by a local TV reporter.

    Questions will arise about the necessity of these aviation demonstration teams like they always do following a fatal crash. Compound that with the number of air fatalities in training missions today. It is a valid argument.


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    Body of Navy Blue Angels Capt. Jeff Kuss flown home.


    The body of Navy Blue Angels Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss was flown out of Smyrna about 11:40 a.m. Saturday on a Navy C-130 plane.

    More than a dozen police cars and official vehicles guided a white hearse from Murfreesboro into Smyrna before Kuss' body was loaded onto the plane. People braved the rain and lined Murfreesboro Road, waving American flags and wiping tears as the procession passed.

    "I just think of his kids," Joykarin Winter said, wiping a tear.

    Police said Kuss' body would flown home Saturday. The military jet team is based in Pensacola, Florida.


    Kuss, 32, was killed Thursday when his Blue Angels jet crashed just after takeoff during a practice flight at the Smyrna Airport. The elite military demonstration jet team was in Middle Tennessee for the Great American Air Show, which begins Saturday.

    His death rocked the community, and was the first fatal crash involving a Blue Angels pilot in nearly a decade.


    The noon start of the air show was delayed for a short time as organizers waited out the rain. Hundreds of spectators waiting on the flight line, huddled under umbrellas and protected by ponchos in an attempt to stay dry.

    The airshow began about 1 p.m., the rain clearing to sunny skies.


    Raymond Holliman of Rockfield, Kentucky, has driven to the airshow in Smryna each year since 2008. The Blue Angels, he said, were always the draw. Holliman wore a Blue Angels shirt, donned a Blue Angels hat and waved a Blue Angels flag.

    He and his wife were at home Thursday and saw the news of the crash that killed Kuss.

    “We were shocked,” he said. “It blew our minds.

    “I’m thankful for his service. All these guys. They’re representing the United States of America. We wanted to come down here and honor him today.”


  5. #5
    RIP Capt. Semper Fidelis.


  6. #6
    Snowbirds open performance with missing man formation in honor of Capt Jeff Kuss




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