US Air Force plane crashes after flying over Obama speech

A Blue Angels pilot is dead after crashing during a practice exercise in Tennessee. The pilot of a separate Thunderbirds jet ejected and survived after the aircraft went down in Colorado, at the US Air Force Academy.
Obama salutes a graduate at the event, on June 2, 2016.
Obama salutes a graduate at the event, on June 2, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
Cadets caps and Air Force Thunderbirds are seen during the graduation ceremony.
Cadets caps and Air Force Thunderbirds are seen during the graduation ceremony.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A plane from the US Air Force's elite Thunderbird team crashed Thursday in Colorado shortly after flying over a ceremony where President Barack Obama spoke, an official said.

The pilot ejected safely from the aircraft and was undergoing a medical examination, according to the Air Force official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Following the accident, Obama met with the pilot at Peterson Air Force Base before heading back to Washington aboard Air Force One.

Obama expressed relief that the pilot was not injured and thanked him for his service to the country, according to reporters who were traveling with the President.

The official said the F-16 Thunderbird crashed "shortly after conducting a flyover in support of the US Air Force Academy graduation commencement ceremony" in Colorado Springs, where Obama addressed the crowd.

Obama used the occasion to defend his approach to the Syrian conflict, warning against allowing the United States to become drawn into a new civil war in the Middle East.

The accident occurred about 9km from Peterson Air Force Base.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, the Air Force official said.