An F-16 Fighting Falcon of the Shaw Air Force and a Cessna civilian aircraft collided on Tuesday near Joint Base Charleston at 11:30 a.m. The F-16 pilot safely ejected and was taken to Joint Base Charleston for a health assessment. The two people aboard Cessna, unfortunately, were killed in the crash.
Two people killed in crash
— Shaw Air Force Base (@20FighterWing) July 7, 2015
Berkeley officials have started its recovery mission for the bodies of the two who died aboard the Cessna aircraft, Fox10 reported. The search operatives are now focusing in recovering the remains, Berkeley County Squad Chief Bill Salisbury said. Unfortunately, the authorities “have no reason to believe anyone survived the crash,” Salisbury said. The recovery operation is being conducted with boats, divers and sonar.
The crash took place near Old Highway 52 in Moncks Corner and witnesses testified that the F-16 hit the Cessna broadside – something to the effect of the F-16 coming through the Cessna aircraft – Salisbury told press. The Cessna departed from the Berkeley County Airport and was headed to Myrtle Beach. Salisbury told press that the fuselage of the Cessna was already located and debris area is 7.3 miles wide and scattered across a rice field.
Authorities have yet to identify the two people aboard the Cessna. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Peter Knudson confirmed Tuesday afternoon that two people were killed as the Cessna was destroyed into pieces.
NTSB investigating this morning's mid-air collision between an F-16 military aircraft and a Cessna 150 in Moncks Corner, SC.
— NTSB (@NTSB) July 7, 2015
F-16 pilot in safe condition
NTSB’s Knudson said they have yet to detect the cause of the collision. Major Morshe Araujo, a spokeswoman at Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon said the F-16 departed from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.
The pilot of the 20th Fighter Wing F-16CM Fighting Falcon was identified as major Aaron Johnson from the 55th Fighter Squadron. He is a “highly experienced pilot” who was on a training mission that day, Col Stephen Jost said during a press conference.
“Our pilots are well trained to fly the approaches in and out of there and all the facts at this point indicate he was taking to air traffic control when the accident happened,” Jost told press.
Jost said that Johnson was still positively controlled by the Charleston air traffic controllers as it was flying at 230 to 290 mph and between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above the ground. At this point, air traffic controllers would have been giving instructions to Johnson, said Jim Brauchle, a former Air Force navigator.
“Even if you’re under radar control, the pilots still have the responsibility to see and avoid. Sometimes pilots can have a false sense of security when air traffic control tells them it has control. But they still have to be looking outside the aircraft,” Brauchle told The Post and The Courier.
According to residents living nearby the crash site, the collision sounded like an explosion. The sound was like a loud boom, “like the pilot turned on his afterburners,” resident Jack Patrick said. He added that the F-16 turned around a short time after the boom. Another loud boom was heard “like a big shotgun went off,” Patrick said.
Capt Robert McCullough of the South Carolina Department of Natural resources said the Cessna must have tried to climb to avoid the impact. “Witnesses have indicated the Cessna was flying along, pulled up, and the jet went through it,” McCullough said.
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