Late Blue Angels pilot was living his dream before crash

Blue Angels pilot killed days before Tennesse... 02:50

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

Capt. Jeff Kuss in 2015 CBS News

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 CBS News

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.

Michelle Miller's thrilling ride on the Blue ... 00:40

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.

CBSN's Vladimir Duthiers also flew with Kuss. He posted this remembrance on Facebook:

  • michelle-miller-promo.jpg
    Michelle Miller On Twitter»

    Michelle Miller is the co-host of "CBS This Morning: Saturday." As an award-winning correspondent based in New York City, she has reported for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. She joined CBS News in 2004.