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Blue Angels F-18 crashes; both pilots killed

Blue Angels
File photo of the F-18 Blue Angels flying in formation  

October 28, 1999
Web posted at: 3:16 p.m. EDT (1916 GMT)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Georgia (CNN) -- Two pilots from the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels stunt team were killed Thursday when their F/A-18 fighter jet crashed in south Georgia while trying to land during a training flight, the Pentagon said.

"One of our Blue Angels jets went down," said U.S. Navy Commander Jack Papp, a Navy spokesman in Pensacola, Florida, where the Blue Angels are based. "It landed in a wooded area. Both pilots were killed."

"The accident took place around 12:30 this afternoon. They were coming in to land, practicing arrival maneuvers when this happened," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon in Washington.

Plane crashes

The crash happened near Moody Air Force Base -- near Valdosta, Georgia -- while members of the precision flying team were rehearsing for a performance this weekend during the base's Community Appreciation Day.

Witnesses saw a fireball when the plane struck the ground. There were no reports of parachutes being seen.

Flying in close formation, the Blue Angels thrill audiences on the ground with their seemingly dangerous maneuvers.

It was not yet clear how many planes were involved in Thursday's rehearsal.

The last crash involving the Blue Angeles occurred in 1990, and the last fatality occurred on July 13, 1985, in Niagara Falls, New York, when Lt. Cmdr. Michael Gershon died in a fiery crash after two planes collided during an air show.

Thursday's fatalities brought to 23 the number of pilots killed in air shows or training since the group was formed in 1946.

Since they were formed, the Blue Angels have performed before more than 322 million spectators.

Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report

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United States Navy Blue Angels
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