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Blue Angels: Fallen pilot honored near Smyrna crash site

An outpouring of sympathy continues to flow this morning following the tragic death of a U.S. Navy Blue Angel pilot, whose jet crashed Thursday while preparing for the Great Tennessee Airshow.

In Smyrna, residents lit their front porches up overnight with blue lights in honor of the pilot on the heels of a late Thursday night vigil
attended by hundreds of somber locals. Pilot Marine Capt. Jeff
Kuss was killed Thursday when his jet crashed at 3:01 p.m. near
the Smyrna Airport, a U.S. official told the Associated Press.

“Blue light is on from our porch tonight,” local Angela Peay-Elzey wrote on a group Facebook page, after a fellow resident suggested the tribute.

Nashville, city officials announced the Metro Courthouse and Korean
Veterans Memorial Bridge will be lit up with blue and yellow lights
after dusk Friday. Mayor Megan Barry also expressed sadness over the pilot’s death.

Smyrna resident Jeremy Cates, who attended the vigil, said he was shocked by the death, but not the community response.

community has always been that way,” Cates said. “Everybody always
comes together to help out. I am very proud of the response of the
police and fire departments.”
Kuss and five of his colleagues in
matching blue jets practiced for the airshow this weekend and flew over
downtown Nashville just hours before the crash.

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 of the crash as the community mourned the
32-year-old pilot, husband and father of two.
On Friday morning,
about 10 Tennessee Highway Patrol officers guarded the site where the
plane went down as the crash investigation continued. A Federal Aviation
Administration spokeswoman said Friday that agency was not involved in
the investigation and that the crash was being investigated by the U.S.

“We’re assisting our local, state and federal counterparts
so the scene can maintain its integrity,” THP Sgt. Travis Plotzer said
from the scene Friday.

Although law enforcement had no issues
overnight, Plotzer said officers plan to secure the site through the
remainder of the day.

Although the Blue Angles will no longer
perform, as of late Thursday night the Smyrna Great Tennessee Air Show
slated this weekend was scheduled to continue despite the fatal crash.
Steve Fiebing,
a deputy public affairs officer for the Naval Air Forces, said it was
not immediately known when the other Blue Angel pilots planned to depart

“The team is still there and there are a number of
administrative things they have to take care of,” Fiebing said
mid-Friday morning. “The squadron does a safety investigation and
investigators are also still en route. They will likely remain there for
a while. It could be today, but I don’t know yet. Every situation is

The jet crashed about 100 yards from the grounds of the Historic Sam Davis Home and Plantation.
The nonprofit organization posted on its website and Facebook page
Friday that the home would be closed until further notice due to unsafe
conditions on the grounds and the investigation into the crash.

Friday, a make-shift memorial composed of American flags, toy
airplanes, teddy bears and notes were placed at the gate of Lee Victory
Park on Sam Ridley Parkway located across the street from the airport.

“For Captain Kuss and his family. Thank you. Semper Fi,” one note read.

Another read: “Thank you for being a hero. Thank you, thank you, thank you. God bless you and rest in peace.”

resident Taylor Loyal, who attended the late night vigil at Smyrna’s
Lee Victory Park., said her normally bustling neighborhood is now
uncomfortably quiet.

“In my neighborhood, there are almost always
planes flying over us,” said Loyal. “And this week, we’ve rushed out
into the yard anytime we heard something. And (Thursday), we stood in
the street with our jaws wide open, looking up excited.”

On Thursday afternoon after the crash, he said he pulled over as police cars and fire trucks and ambulances rushed by.

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