A U.S. Navy Blue Angel crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the pilot, during an air show practice on Thursday in Smyrna, Tenn., a Navy official said.
According to Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Jeanette Groeneveld, the F/A-18 single-seat jet crashed while in formation. The Navy has notified the pilot’s next of kin and will not release the name or aircraft number for 24 hours.
The F/A-18 crashed at approximately 4:01 p.m. eastern time. According to Groenveld, the cause of the crash was unclear and the Navy has opened an investigation into the incident.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the team right now,” Groenveld said.
Images posted to social media show a smoke cloud and fireball rising from a residential neighborhood.
The F-18 crashed just hours after a separate incident in Colorado Springs where an F-16 crashed after flying over the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony where President Obama was in attendance.
The F-16 was a part of the Air Force’s demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds. The pilot ejected safely.
It is extremely rare for two aircraft from two demonstration squadrons to crash on the same day. Both groups are composed of the best pilots their respective services have to offer.
After the crash, the pilot met briefly with Obama before the president left Colorado in Air Force One from Peterson Air Force base.
The president thanked the pilot for his service, according to a White House press pool report.
First responders were sent to the scene of the crash, and the pilot is currently undergoing a medical evaluation out of precaution, according to Peterson Air Force Base spokesman Robb Lingley. Pictures online show the aircraft mostly intact laying upright in a field. Lingley added that the Air Force would be conducting a “thorough investigation” into the crash and currently could not determine its cause.