The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed two people in a civilian aircraft were killed Tuesday after an Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft collided with their plane in the skies over Berkeley County.
The F-16 pilot safely ejected and was taken to nearby Joint Base Charleston for a health assessment, according to a statement from Shaw Air Force base in Sumter. The statement identified the pilot as Maj. Aaron Johnson of the 55th Fighter Squadron. No injuries or damage was reported from falling debris.
The two individuals killed in the Cessna 150 have not yet been identified, but Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury said both were from the area. Officials said the plane was believed to be heading to Myrtle Beach from the Berkeley County Airport.
“There are a hundred factors that could have been at play here,” 20th Fighter Wing commander Col. Stephen Jost told reporters Tuesday evening. “We’ll certainly be looking at all those to determine exactly what happened in the spirit of safety to prevent these types of tragedy from happening again in the future.
The wreckage from the two planes was scattered across nearly seven miles, Salisbury said. Much of the debris from the Cessna was found in a rice field roughly three miles south of Moncks Corner and about 20 miles north of Charleston. Salisbury said recovery crews have not found the bodies, but “have no reason to believe” either individual survived the crash.
Officials have not yet confirmed the location of the F-16’s remains. Authorities are asking the public not to touch any debris they find, but to call 911.
“You have to imagine both scenes are in a remote marshy area,” Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis told reporters in a short press conference.
Representatives with the National Transportation Safety Board are on the scene, but the Air Force is overseeing the investigation.