Growing up, my Dad used to take me to this very airshow every year. They do it at the Navy base right outside of Beaufort South Carolina and it was always an awesome show. Very sad.
(CNN) -- A jet flying in formation with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels precision flying team crashed into a Beaufort, South Carolina, neighborhood, causing an "enormous fireball" during an air show, authorities said.
The Navy aviator was killed Beaufort County Coroner Curt Copeland said. The F/A-18's pilot is the only known fatality.
Fred Yelinek told CNN he saw the crash occur about a mile from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, which was holding the two-day show. He said the jet came down about 100 yards from him.
Yelinek said the jet struck a stand of pine trees, and pieces of the plane hit homes, but he didn't see any catch fire. The pieces were "as big as a hand but no larger," he said.
Pieces of a tree and the plane crashed into the home of a neighbor, Yelinek said, but she was uninjured. Pieces also hit other houses and smashed car windshields, he said.
"Most people were very shaken but unhurt," the witness said.
"I was working on a pump in the yard across the street from the initial impact, and I heard the Blue Angeles go over ... in a full, tight formation," Yelinek said.
"And then, four or five minutes later, I hear them coming again, expecting to see pretty much the same thing. But I didn't hear any strange noises. And then it was the crashing sound of pieces of the airplane coming through the trees in the yard across the street."
"And then a huge fireball, maybe 200, 300 yards further on down. The debris started from the first impact with a pine tree, which was maybe 100 yards from my location."
"Part of the tree and the debris went through a house in that yard, then the main body of the airplane continued on about 300 more yards and hit about one city block further down at the intersection of Shanklin and Pine Grove roads.
"There's a lot of houses on all four corners of that intersection. And there was a lot of fire at that intersection, and continuing thereafter."
Another witness, Gerald Popp, said the six jets had been flying for about five minutes before one of them turned south, toward the Broad River.
"I saw him go down lower than the trees, and next I saw a big black cloud of smoke," said Popp, who also lives in Beaufort.
Justin Cooke, an off-duty air traffic controller at the base, told CNN that some of the runways used in the air show are near military base housing, which gets constant flyovers from the base's jets. But he said he didn't think the jet crashed into the base housing area.
"From my understanding, northeast of base housing is a residential area," Cooke said.
Although he was unable to confirm the jet had struck there, he said "one of my Marines said the power was out temporarily, and stuff had knocked off their walls from the impact" of the crash.
"The base is on lockdown," Cooke said.
While the cause of the crash is unknown, he mentioned that birds pose a frequent problem to jets flying in the area, and can cause a crash.
"On an F-18, you have two motors, and if they take [a bird] in the engine, it could cause engine failure and shut that down," he said. He said the plane is capable of flying in excess of 450 mph.
Although Cooke was not at the show, he said he has extensive knowledge of the show's program.
"Sounds like they were completing the show" when the jet crashed, he said.
The aerobatic maneuvers were to be repeated Sunday as part of the Low Country Blues Festival. The show also featured other aerial demonstration teams and civilian and military aircraft displays.
CNN meteorologists said the weather in Beaufort, which is near Savannah, was clear.
The last crash involving the Blue Angels was in 1999 in south Georgia. Two aviators were killed when their F/A-18 jet crashed while trying to land during a training flight.
Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds--and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of Wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlight silence. Hovering there, I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long delirious burning blue I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace Where never lark, or even eagle flew. And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the hand of God.
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These guys – possibly this pilot himself – were just buzzing my house last September for the Lincoln Air Show. They were ripping past my house at about 200 feet off the ground. We take for granted the skill it takes to do that, concentrating on how cool the F18 is or how neat the sound they make is, but every day they strap into that cockpit could be their last, and it’s all just to entertain you and me.