Air Force Thunderbird F-16 crashes in Colorado, pilot safe: Air Force

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. An Air Force F-16 with the Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron crashed on Thursday after performing a fly-by of the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony where President Barack Obama gave the commencement address, officials said.

The pilot of the plane ejected and was unhurt, the U.S. Air Force said. The crash occurred in a field 5 miles (8 km) south of Peterson Air Force Base and the pilot, whose name was not released, was picked up by emergency response crews and taken to a hospital, it said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known and the Air Force said it would undertake an investigation to determine what happened. The Air Force’s Air Combat Command said on Twitter that no one was hurt on the ground and there was no hazard to the public.

After leaving the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, Obama visited the Thunderbird pilot at Peterson AFB to thank him for his service and express relief that he had not been seriously hurt, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Earnest said the pilot was up and walking around when the president saw him. The president also thanked the emergency responders who picked up the pilot, Earnest said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Eric Beech, Toni Reinhold)

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