UPDATE: Blue Angels jet crashes in Smyrna

Staff Reports • Jun 2, 2016 at 4:58 PM

A Navy Blue Angels pilot was killed Thursday when the jet he was flying crashed near the Smyrna-Rutherford Airport during preparations for weekend air show.

The crash of the F/A-18 aircraft happened at about 3 p.m. as the Blue Angels were beginning practice for the Great Tennessee Air Show. The crash happened near the Meadow Wood apartment complex off Nissan Drive. No civilians were injured in the crash, but some homes in Smyrna lost power, according to Smyrna Fire Chief Bill Culbertson.

Reports indicate that the pilot was Capt. Jeff Kuss from Colorado. He joined Blue Angels in September of 2014. 

The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.

An investigation is underway from both the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration. According to Culbertson, there were burn marks on the plane that may have been from live power lines brought down during the crash.

Witnesses who were on the flight line at the Smyrna Airport said the plane that went down hesitated and struggled to gain altitude before the crash. Another witness who works next to the Smyrna Airport said the jet burst into flames before it crashed.

According to WSMV Meterologist Dan Thomas, there was a weather cell near the area, which could have caused an updraft that may have contributed to the crash, but no official cause was determined. Smyrna fire and police, as well as Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency and other emergency officials were almost immediately on the scene.

The airport will have a two-mile air restriction around the incident area, which will stay in effect until the investigation is complete. A portion of Sam Ridley Parkway will remain closed, and officials said Nissan Boulevard should open soon.

Officials were still deciding on Thursday evening whether to continue with the Great Tennessee Airshow in light of the incident. The Blue Angels will not perform this weekend. 

The Blue Angels troop is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and last visited the Smyrna-Rutherford Airport for an air show two years ago.

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