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Memorial Held For Thunderbird Pilot Killed During Training Flight In Nevada

SANTA CLARITA (CBSLA) --   A somber memorial was held Sunday for the Thunderhird pilot killed earlier this month during a training flight in Nevada.

CBS2's Jeff Nguyen reported from Santa Clarita where Air Force Major Stephen Del Bagno touched many lives.

Nguyen said people, including Boy Scouts, were lined up to attend the memorial.

Four fighter jets also flew over Saugus High School in the missing-man formation.

More than 1,000 attended the memorial at the high school where he graduated.

Nguyen was told that Del Bagno often came back to the school to talk to kids about his love for flying.

"Always giving back," said Ilene Block a former guidance counselor. "That was who he was. Always giving back."

Del Bagno, 34, was a Valencia native. He graduated from Utah Valley State University in 2005.

Stephen Del Bagno
(credit: CBS)

He got his pilot's license as a teenager. After college, Del Bagno spent time as a flight instructor, corporate pilot, skywriter and banner tower, before joining the Air Force.

Del Bagno was killed on April 4 after his F-16 crashed over the Nevada Test and Training Range. He was performing what the Air Force called a routine aerial demonstration training flight.

At Saugus High School, there is a wall that honors fallen heroes.

Soon, Del Bagno's name will be  added.

His father spoke to the crowd about his loss.

"This is the hardest thing any parent could ever do," said Joe Del Bagno.

While most people at the memorial knew Del Bagno of his family, Evelyn Chavez -- a stranger -- came with her children to pay her respects.

Her 15-year-old son Kenneth, an ROTC member, said he wants to follow in Del Bagno's footsteps.

"It gives me confidence in myself to go and accomplish my dreams to be a pilot," says Kevin Alvarez.

Del Bagno's sister, Tiffany Speaks, read from a letter her brother wrote when he applied to the Thunderbirds.

"I realize there's more to being a member of the Thunderbirds than flying aircraft," she said. "Connecting with the public is the pivotal part of the job."

The memorial service started at 4:44 p.m. -- because Del Bagno flew in the fourth position. And he died on 4/4.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

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