SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – Many people were watching the Blue Angels practice Thursday afternoon before a horrible tragedy unfolded before their eyes.

One of the jets crashed into a field next to the historic Sam Davis home, killing the pilot who has been identified as Marine Captain Jeff Kuss.

The Hendrix family was swimming at an apartment complex next to the site, enjoying the water and view from below.

“They were doing their stunts and they were twirling. Well, when they split, the one on the right, he done about four or five twirls right, and he was coming by to go back to the airport,” described Robert Hendrix.

And then it happened.

“All of a sudden, he hit, and the next thing you seen was flames. We were so close you could feel the heat from the flames,” Hendrix added.

He told News 2 he helped first responders put up crime scene tape, describing the crash as “horrific.”

“The flames were a big as a football field and we felt the flames and the heat and it just about knocked everybody so close off in the pool that we were in,” added Gene Hendrix.

RAW VIDEO: Onlookers capture moments of Blue Angels crash

Paula Payne works at a store nearby and said she looked out the window after hearing something a little bit louder than before.

“I looked out the window and saw one straight out here come down, hit the ground, and explode,” she said. “I could see it vertically down.”

Payne said at first she thought the pilot was practicing something else, a maneuver or a trick.

“But when it got really close, I knew that it was going to hit,” she added. “I said, ‘Oh my god.’”

PHOTOS: U.S. Navy Blue Angels jet crash

Another witness, Becca Burgess, said Paula Payne got her attention after noticing the Blue Angels jet was flying really low.

“I looked up and saw it coming down, and I thought maybe they were doing dips … Then I saw a huge ball of orange fire, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, he’s crashed,’” she explained.

When asked what it was like seeing the crash, Burgess replied, “I cried. I mean, the first thought was fear for the pilot.”

She said it was so close that it rattled the windows.

“It’s kind of fun hearing them [practice], but we don’t think… we’re just watching and enjoying it, but we don’t think about they put their lives on the line to do this, to entertain people, and this is what happens.”

Shannon Chaffin was driving near the area with her family when the crash happened.

“My son was watching them do the maneuvers and I was driving. He said, ‘Oh Dad!’ I heard something and looked, and we saw the mushroom fireball cloud start,” Chaffin explained. “He just kept going lower and lower and just flattened straight into the ground right behind the trees, fireball.”

Chaffin went on to describe the scene.

“I saw like a parachute draped on the ground off a tree. I followed the string from that to the chair. When I come around the chair wasn’t facing me. The back was towards me, and I kind of turned around and you could see the silhouette of a body just sitting there in the chair. Yeah that was the pilot.”

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