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The Blue Angels pilot who died Thursday in Tennessee, U.S. Marine Corps captain Jeff Kuss, was a close relative of recent Redlands Classic stage winner and Rally Cycling signee Sepp Kuss.
Captain Kuss, 32, died during practice runs for the Great Tennessee Airshow. He graduated from Durango High School in 2002 and from Fort Lewis College, in Durango, in 2006. He was commissioned the same year as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Sepp Kuss, 22, is a senior at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a three-time national collegiate champion. He graduated from Durango High School in 2012. In April, he won the Oak Glen summit stage at the Redlands Classic, and shortly thereafter, signed a contract with U.S. Continental team Rally Cycling.
Dolph Kuss, a U.S. Nordic ski team coach during the 1960s and 70s and former coach at Fort Lewis College, is Sepp Kuss’ father, and Captain Kuss’ grandfather.
“It’s hard to put into words right now, but it’s beautiful that a person can live and die engaged in their life’s pursuits,” Dolph Kuss told the Associated Press from his home in Durango. “This was his dream since he was a child, to be an aviator, a flier.”
Captain Kuss had served in Afghanistan before joining the Blue Angels. As reported by the Durango Herald, he received several decorations, including the Strike Flight Air Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. He joined the Blue Angels in September 2014. In January, he was one of six Blue Angels pilots to fly over Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, just before kickoff at Super Bowl 50.
Witnesses on the ground in Smyrna, Tennessee, proclaimed Kuss a hero, suggesting that he did not eject from his malfunctioning F/A-18 fighter jet in order to steer it from residences on the ground. There was no collision involved in the crash, and the cause is under investigation.
Captain Kuss is survived by his wife, Christina, and two young children, as well as his parents, Michael and Janet Kuss of Durango.
Late Thursday afternoon, Fort Lewis College posted on its Facebook page: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our own, alum Captain Jeff Kuss. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
CyclingTips offers its deepest sympathies to the Kuss family, and to the Blue Angels community, during this difficult time.