A pilot with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels squadron was killed when his F/A-18 jet crashed Thursday afternoon in Smyrna, Tennessee, the Naval Air Forces confirmed.
"The pilot of the jet was taking off to start the afternoon practice when the mishap occurred. The pilot died from injuries sustained during the crash," a statement from the Naval Air Forces released Thursday evening read. "The name of the pilot and side number of the aircraft will not be released until 24-hours after the next-of-kin notifications have been completed."
"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," the statement concluded.
The other five Blue Angel jets were not involved in the crash and landed safely shortly after, the Naval Air Forces said. The Navy will investigate the cause of the crash.
The pilot’s identity has not been officially released, but the Associated Press identified the victim as Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, citing a U.S. official.
The Tennessean first reported that the jet crashed around 3 p.m. local time after taking off on a practice flight. Larry Farley, the Rutherford County fire chief, said his dispatchers were informed that one person died in the crash. A spokesman for the Navy said the crash involved a Blue Angels jet.
Images and videos of the crash emerged on social media following the incident, showing a large cloud of smoke.
A Blue Angel jet crashed after takeoff: https://t.co/2bAI7i3fBB
— Stephen Gillett (@stephengillett) June 2, 2016
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 2, 2016
"I’ve never seen such a big ball or orange fire before," Becca Collision-Burgess, a witness who was working nearby when the aircraft crashed, told Fox 17 Nashville.
The incident took place ahead of the Blue Angels’ Great Tennessee Air Show at Smyrna Airport this weekend.
The Blue Angels crash occurred shortly after a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird F-16 aircraft crashed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when conducting a flyover during the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, where President Obama was a guest speaker. The pilot ejected safely, the Air Combat Command said in a statement.
This post will be updated as further information becomes available.