Two jets from elite U.S. military squadrons crash, one reported dead

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2016 4:36 PM

(Reuters) - Two fighter jets from elite U.S. military demonstration squadrons crashed in separate incidents on Thursday, including one that had just done a flyover of the Air Force Academy graduation in Colorado where President Barack Obama had spoken.

In Tennessee, one person was killed when an F/A-18 jet from the Navy's Blue Angels squadron crashed in Smyrna, about 24 miles (39 km) southeast of Nashville, local media reported.

The status of the Navy pilot and the cause of the crash were not immediately known. The crash occurred while the Blue Angels were practicing for a weekend air show, local media said.

In Colorado, a pilot with the Air Force's Thunderbirds squadron was unhurt when his F-16 jet crashed in a field 5 miles (8 km) south of Peterson Air Force Base, the Air Force said.

The pilot, whose name was not released, ejected safely and was picked up by emergency response crews, the Air Force said.

After leaving the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, Obama visited the Thunderbird pilot at Peterson AFB to thank him for his service and express relief he had not been seriously hurt, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Earnest said the pilot was up and walking around when the president saw him. The president also thanked the emergency responders who picked up the pilot, Earnest said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known and the Air Force said it would undertake an investigation. The Air Force's Air Combat Command said on Twitter that no one was hurt on the ground and there was no hazard to the public.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington; Writing by David Alexander and Eric Beech; Editing by Toni Reinhold and James Dalgleish)