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Late Blue Angels pilot was living his dream before crash

Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2015

The famed Blue Angels will not fly this weekend at The Great Tennessee Air Show after a deadly accident on Thursday.

The first Blue Angels crash in nearly a decade, the jet went down and
exploded in a huge fireball during a practice run in Tennessee. The
pilot, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, was killed. He was just 32 years old.

When I met Capt. Kuss last spring,
it was clear he was truly living his dream. Not only was he a decorated
member of the U.S. military, but Kuss was also friendly, steadfast and
determined to inspire the next generation to reach new heights.

Capt. Jeff Kuss (left) with CBS News’ Michelle Miller

The Blue Angels jet, an F/A-18 Hornet, part of the Navy’s elite
flying force, crashed just after 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon near the
airport in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The five remaining jets landed safely, but Capt. Kuss was killed. He was piloting plane number six.

Last year, I had the privilege of being a Blue Angels passenger, flying along with Capt. Kuss. He was exactly where he wanted to be.

“I got my pilot’s license when I was 17, and I wanted to get in the military and fly the fastest, meanest thing they could give me, and this is it — the Hornet is it,” Kuss had told me.

Early Thursday, the Blue Angels had a successful practice flight over Nashville, but just hours later, tragedy.

As night fell in Smyrna, hundreds of people met at the Lee Victory Recreation Park and held candles in a tribute to the fallen pilot.

“I get a smile on my face every time I get in the jet,” Kuss said in 2015.

He told me he was proud to represent the Navy and the Marine Corps with excellence.

“I was once the little kid that we now see at the crowd lines standing two feet tall looking up at the skies, and so to have that dream realized and be here, for me, is an absolute honor,” Kuss said.

According to the Blue Angels, the Colorado native was married and the father of two children.

The U.S. military and FAA are investigating the crash.

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