Blue Angel jet crashes during show, killing pilot

Published April 22, 2007

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 about 4 p.m. and one dropped below the trees and crashed, sending up clouds of smoke.

Raymond Voegeli, 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, located 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 were notified.

A Navy statement said the pilot had been on the team for two years - and it was his first as a demonstration pilot. The accident was under investigation.

The last Blue Angel crash that killed a pilot took place in 1999, when a pilot and crewmate were killed while practicing for air shows at a base in Georgia.

The Blue Angels fly F/A-18 Hornets in close formations, and their pilots are considered the Navy's elite. The team, which is based at Pensacola Naval Air Station, recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

More than 100,000 people had been expected to attend Saturday's show.