F-16 collides with small Cessna in South Carolina; 2 aboard Cessna die

An F-16 military plane collided mid-air with a small plane near Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday morning, leaving two people dead, federal officials confirmed.

A Cessna C-150 plane and the F-16 fighter plane crashed about 11 miles north of Charleston, according to a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Two people traveling in the Cessna were killed, according to Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. No other details about their identities were immediately available. It was unclear whether authorities have recovered the victims’ bodies.

The pilot of the F-16 ejected safely and was taken to a local hospital, officials said at a news conference. Shaw Air Force Base identified him as Maj. Aaron Johnson of the 20th Fighter Wing's 55th Fighter Squadron. 

The crash was reported about 11:03 a.m., Berkeley County officials said. County spokesman Michael Mule told The Times the incident occurred above Lewisfield Plantation, a historic plantation home in Berkeley County.

Cliff Cannon, a local resident, told The Times that he was driving when he noticed a flash in the air, and then black smoke.

"I looked up, and I saw an explosion," Cannon, 61, said in a phone interview. Cannon said he saw another plane flying past where he'd spotted the black smoke but didn't realize at the time that it had been involved in a crash.

"I could see debris falling where the black smoke was, but I couldn't tell from that distance what size," he said. Seconds later, he said, police cars and emergency workers raced past him.

Parts of the private plane were scattered "over a large area," one county official told reporters, including in a rice field.

Officials did not confirm the location of the F-16.

Authorities have set up a command post for the incident at a shopping center in Moncks Corner, S.C., about 30 miles north of Charleston.

The NTSB is investigating, officials said.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

2:07 p.m.: This story was updated with the F-16 pilot's identity. 

1:57 p.m.: This story was updated with the deaths of two people aboard the Cessna.

11:19 a.m.: This story was updated with details from an eyewitness.

10:39 a.m.: This story was updated with details about the condition of the F-16 pilot.

The first version of this story was published at 9:31 a.m.

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