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Blue Angel jet crashes, killing pilot and hurting 8 on ground

Blue Angel jet crashes, killing pilot and hurting 8 on ground

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BEAUFORT, S.C. - A Navy Blue Angel jet crashed during an air show Saturday, plunging into a neighborhood of small homes and trailers and killing the pilot.

Witnesses said the planes were flying in formation during the show at the Marine Corps Air Station about4 p.m. when one dropped below the trees and crashed, sending up clouds of smoke.

Raymond Voegeli, 37, a plumber, was backing out of a driveway when the plane ripped through a grove of pine trees, dousing his truck in flames and debris. He said wreckage hit "plenty of houses and mobile homes."

Witnesses said metal and plastic wreckage - some of it on fire - hit homes in the neighborhood, about 35 miles northwest of Hilton Head Island. William Winn, the county emergency management director, said several homes were damaged. Eight people on the ground were injured.

The crash took place in the final minutes of the air show, said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Walley, a Blue Angel pilot. He said the name of the pilot would not be released until relatives had been notified of the death.

"Our squadron and the entire U.S. Navy are grieving the loss of a great American, a great naval officer and a great friend," Walley said.

A Navy statement said the pilot had been on the team for two years. The accident was under investigation, the statement said.

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets at high speeds in close formations. They don't wear the traditional G-suits that most jet pilots use to avoid blacking out during maneuvers. The suits inflate around the lower body to keep blood in the brain but could cause a pilot to bump the control stick - a potentially deadly move when flying inches from other planes.

Instead, Blue Angels manage G-forces by tensing their abdominal muscles.

Saturday's show was at the beginning of the team's flight season, and more than 100,000 people were expected to attend.

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